by Carl Wilson

When I think about my life growing up in a small Oregon town, I become even more committed to creating safe, affirming communities for everyone in our state.

I was raised in Astoria and return to visit often. During a recent visit, I was told that one of the town’s biggest summer events is a gay street party, and they now even have had their first drag show. I wonder what life would have been like for my brother and me if we had had queer role models when we grew up in Astoria in the early sixties.

What’s happening in Astoria is amazing. People who are LGBTQ and living in small towns and rural communities face challenges every day just for being alive; our next frontier as a movement is in these communities, not necessarily in large urban environments. We have passed supportive laws and have won legal victories across the country, but laws alone aren’t enough to create a culture that values the dignity and worth of every person.

I’ve been a donor to both Equity Foundation and Pride Foundation, and I am excited that they are unifying under Pride Foundation’s regional network. For the last six years I have met with Pride Foundation’s experienced leadership, always focusing our discussions on future opportunities. I have found Pride Foundation to be remarkably insightful and forward-thinking. They use national connections and tightly-woven regional networks to focus on the issues not just for today but for tomorrow: life in rural areas and small towns, people who are homeless or hungry, people who are transgender, youth and elders, and racial and immigrant justice —the full spectrum of movements pursuing dignity for every human being.

In their work to make all people feel valued for who they are, Pride Foundation also works to value me as a donor. They invest in people for something other than their financial ability to contribute. I’m not a five-figure donor, but Pride Foundation takes the time to sit down with me and ask about my ideas. Kris Hermanns and Katie Carter have told me on more than one occasion that talking to people like me, and learning from my experiences and hopes for the future, is incredibly important in guiding their work.

We are at a pivotal point. We must build on our legal gains to further connect and create safe, affirming communities for every person in Oregon. I hope you’ll join with me and the hundreds of donors who support this unified philanthropic effort to create a culture of affirmation in every Oregon community — from the docks of Astoria to the ranches of Malheur and Harney counties.

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