Donor: the meaning of “Meaningful Philanthropy”on March 9th, 2011 at 5:38 pm
At Pride Foundation, we talk a lot about “meaningful philanthropic opportunities.” But what exactly do those words mean? The more I talk to people like Lucy Peckham, the more I’m convinced that our donors and prospective donors are the ones who teach us—every day—what meaningful philanthropy is. From Lucy we learn that meaningful giving is intensely personal, passionate, and synergistic.
It is clear within the first ten minutes of meeting Lucy Peckham that the Anchorage resident is very passionate about four things: pets, theatre, the fight against HIV/AIDS and Pride Foundation. What’s more impressive than the fact that she is Pride Foundation’s longest-giving donor in Alaska, is the organic way in which she has created a life of work and service that grew from these passions.
I met Lucy at Anchorage’s Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge while she was swooning over a cup of rich drinking chocolate. Lucy was warm and uninhibited in the way you might expect from someone who has lived their entire life among performers. A veterinary technician by day and sound designer by night, Lucy has been quietly donating to Pride Foundation for twenty years.
While some people might consider her a “straight ally,” Lucy, herself, balks at the term: “I’ve never wanted the bumper sticker that said Straight But Not Narrow.”
She doesn’t want to be defined by her sexual identity anymore than she thinks LGBTQ people should be defined by theirs. Her commitment to Pride Foundation and the battle against HIV/AIDS is about something much larger than who she or anyone else sleeps with.
“It’s easy to say, “No. I know those people and if there’s a God, he loves them.”
Lucy was a theater major at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington when the AIDS pandemic began to rage through the gay community and the deaths that hit her the hardest were those of men who had nurtured her through pivotal moments early in her career.
First there was Brad Hunt, an accomplished graduate of Whitman’s theatre program who had returned home and signed on as the Assistant Director of A Chorus Line during Lucy’s senior year. Lucy was already set on being a sound designer and had absolutely no acting aspirations. But all theatre majors were required to know what it was like to be on stage regardless of their chosen discipline and so—unable to put it off any longer—Lucy nervously signed up to audition for a part in the chorus.
Lucy’s eyes still well with tears when she recalls Brad pulling her into his arms after the first round of auditions, telling her, “You are going to be great in this show.” And indeed, Lucy ended up earning a part in the chorus. Brad, unfortunately, became too sick to fulfill his duties as Assistant Director.
Then there was José Rambaldi, a professor of music history who convinced Lucy’s father to pay for a fifth year of college so that she could really immerse herself in the study of music and fulfill her potential as an artist.
“The reason I’m a good sound designer is because he said I had to pay attention to music,” Lucy says. For her, it was knowing people like Brad and José that made it easy—in the face of those declaring that AIDS was “God’s curse” and that gay men deserved to get sick—to say, “No. I know those people and if there’s a God, he loves them.”
“[Pride Foundation] was like a magnet. It was something that was looking ahead, looking to a future when the straight world didn’t look at the gay world and say, ‘Oh, my God, they’re sick.’”
After college, Lucy traveled up and down the west coast working as a sound designer and took on jobs in veterinary clinics during the day to support herself financially. She discovered Pride Foundation in the early 1990s when she moved back home to Seattle to care for her father.
“[Pride Foundation] was like a magnet,” she says. “It was something that was looking ahead, looking to a future where the straight world didn’t look at the gay world and say, ‘Oh, my God, they’re sick.’”
Lucy jumped into the movement headfirst by becoming a donor, participating in Dine Out for AIDS, and volunteering her sound design expertise for benefit shows. When she followed her partner, John, to Alaska, Lucy continued to donate to Pride Foundation and found ways to contribute to Anchorage’s LGBTQ community by hosting dinners in her home to benefit the Alaskan AIDS Assistance Association and volunteering as a sound technician for Pridefest.
“The potential for change that I saw in 1990 is now expanded to a worldview and that’s Pride Foundation’s doing,” Lucy shares. “They’ve expanded my hopes.”