Southern Arizona Senior Pride
September 8, 2020

Senior Pride Invents New Ways to Connect and Serve

By Joyce Bolinger, Lavina Tomer and Keith Ashley

Senior Pride is poised for continued growth and program success. Despite the many challenges presented by the COVID health crisis, we wrapped up fiscal year 2019-20 in a position of financial strength with our core programs humming along, newly adapted to their online platforms.

We continue to achieve systematically the goals laid out in our strategic plan and are looking forward to serving our community of LGBTQI+ older adults with steadily increasing capacity.

CAPACITY-BUILDING: With the significant help of community donors and grantors, Senior Pride has taken a major step with the addition of a new associate director. Keith Ashley takes on administrative and development responsibilities necessary for long term growth.

“We are thrilled to have Keith share his talent, resources and skills to build a sustainable organization,” said Lavina Tomer, Volunteer Executive Director. “We are especially grateful to local community donors who contributed the funds to contract with the associate director,” she says. The goal is to build towards a full-time director.

Senior Pride was further able to build capacity for the coming year by being awarded a number of significant grants. We thank the following local and national foundations for support for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

These include the LGBTQ Alliance Fund of the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona; the Wild Geese Foundation; the Lovell Foundation (three year grant for the End of Life Planning Program); the Jack Challem Legacy Fund, and, a COVID-19 grant from the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona.

STRENGTHENING PROGRAMS: In March, Senior Pride temporarily discontinued in person events and moved to continue programs and services through video conferencing.

“This is especially important because LGBTQI+ older adults are particularly vulnerable to the effects of social isolation,” says Lavina Tomer. From the communications desk, regular news posts share crucial information, resources, and cultural updates.

The Senior Pride website continues to serve as an information hub, including links to our YouTube channel which features community voices.

Monthly speakers continue to address pertinent issues. Groups meeting regularly include the Senior Pride Book Club: the LGBTQ+ Elder Support Group; an AA meeting hosted by the Senior Pride, and the LBTQ Women’s Grief Group.

After her wife and long term companion died, Donna coped with overwhelming grief. “No matter how well you learn to live with it, grief remains, triggered by the smallest things – a scent, a sound, a flash of color – and bang! You’re back in the moment. And it hurts,” she says.

The Senior Pride Womens Grief Group has helped Donna deal with the loss. “The most important, healthiest thing I did was to join this grief group,” she says.

In future years, when the experience we are all now living through has passed, it will be important to re-trace what some members of our community experienced.

Seeing 2020, a Senior Pride writing workshop, led participants to write some of their responses. An anthology and recordings are posted on the Senior Pride website and readings by the authors are on Senior Pride You Tube Channel.

“The writer’s workshop offered me an opportunity to make sense of a bewildering time. We need more opportunities for such connectedness,” says one writing workshop member. In future years, when the experience we are all now living through has passed, it will be important to re-trace what some members of our community experienced.

Through the Senior Pride Community Cares Program, volunteers visit homebound LGBTQI+ elders, many of whom struggled for years to “come out of the closet” and have often coped with years of discrimination and economic disadvantage.

Alone after the loss of partners and friends, and now homebound due to age or disability, they are grateful for the companionship of Senior Pride volunteers who make weekly “friendly” visits, now via phone. Says one homebound person who welcomes the visits, “Yes, it helps so much. Visits/phone calls have taken me from being in a down space. I can laugh again.”

Erin Russ, coordinator of the End of Life Planning Program and the new Connect Now project, is designing a media End of Life Planning Workshop. And, through COVID-19 Funds, the Connect Now project offers online internet and email access and training through devices such as tablets and phones. “I never thought I would have this,” says one recipient, now connected to community, friends, events and the world through her tablet.

“Senior Pride is continuing to track towards our goal of being around for future elders,” says Gary Gardner, Steering Committee Chair. “We’ve added Salesforce Customer Management Software to upgrade our data and records. We’re moving forward in terms of management, fundraising and expanding services to a wider range of older LGBTQI+ people.”