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lgbtq community spotlight


by kevin perry


GOT GOOD? E


Tony Biel Puts the Fun Back in Fundraising


very holiday season, people pay lip service to actual service. They say they’ll volunteer or help out at a soup kitchen, but empty promises don’t put meals on the plate.


Gay for Good does. “Frank Roller, Steve Gratwick and I came up with


the idea on a hike,” recounts Tony Biel, co-founder and national board member of Gay for Good. He and his besties had organized an LGBT hiking group and asked themselves, “How can we turn that member- ship into doing volunteer projects? The idea for Gay for Good was born.” G4G, as the group is often abbreviated, is a


philanthropic collective that empowers queer crusaders to donate their time to worthy causes. Biel fashioned his fledgling initiative after the daddy of gay civic engagement. “Right around that same time, the movieMilkcame out,” he said. “It was really about engaging all the other people within the Castro, the greater community, not just the LGBT community.” Biel designed Gay for Good as a grand entrance


into the charity scene; an unapologetic way of say- ingwe’re here, we’re queer, we’re helping! His message was desperately needed in the post-Proposition 8 climate that divided Californians in 2008. “In order to get marriage equality passed, we really needed to let the larger community know who we are. We’re regular people just like they are and we care about the things they care about, so they should care about us.”


And what better way to make people care than by


throwing a warehouse party featuring drag queens and DJs? “The social aspect of volunteering was a core


aspect of our mission.” Biel said. “We try to make the events fun. They’re usually about two to three hours, so that’s really not a long time for people to volunteer. There’s usually a lot of intermingling going on, people getting to know each other during the service project.” Take Gobble Gobble Give, for example. This


heartwarming holiday event invites LA gays into a proverbial group hug on Thanksgiving morning to gather their donations for the homeless. “It’s like a speed version of a potluck dinner,” Biel said. “We literally assemble like 500 meals in under two hours.” But the must-attend soiree of the season is just


around the corner. “The Food Bank is the largest project we do in Los Angeles,” Biel said. “Anywhere from 150 to 175 volunteers join. It takes place on Saturday, December 28. We’ve worked with the Food Bank every year since we’ve started.” It truly is a fierce fest, complete with disco tunes


to entertain the troops and a heaping helping of flirtation on the side. Volunteers enter a raffle to win fab prizes and keep the generosity train speeding ahead. “Every dollar is equivalent to four meals for the


Food Bank,” Biel said. “It’s just another way that we can give back. It’s also a fun way for people to get into the holiday spirit.” In addition to nourishing those in need, partici-


pants also feed their souls. “You’re learning what it takes to run a food bank


for a morning. And these people do it every day. You get in there and see what a machine the Food Bank is and how many people they feed and what a worthwhile organization it is,” Biel said. But that’s just one of Biel’s triumphant G4G initiatives. “The Food Bank is fun in that we’re out own encapsulated group, but when we’re at Operation


Gratitude and we’re creating care packages for soldiers and first responders, we’re one of 10 or 15 groups,” he said. Philanthropy allows Biel to be an ambassador of


awesome, representing his gay brethren and sistren in the best light possible. “They get to see a huge group of LGBT volunteers


and get to know us,” he said. “It’s funny because they always say how much they love having us there and a lot of that comes from people you wouldn’t expect to hear it from, like older ladies. They’re like, ‘Oh my god, we love our gays!’ That one’s a fun event.” Biel’s knack for making meaningful connections


has raised Gay for Good’s profile and spread its philosophies nationwide. “We’re in 15 cities,” Biel said. “Right now we’re


looking to 2020. Our goal is to have 20 chapters, so we want to add at least another five to our roster.” So, how does G4G maintain its brand without diluting its mission? By celebrating each location’s diversity. “Every city is uniquely different; they find their own organizations to work with,” Biel said. “A lot of times the themes are the same, but the nonprofits are different. The events are localized to each city.” But the heart of Gay for Good is cohesive, compas-


sionate and collaborative. Biel is harnessing his organization’s growing influence and bringing it full circle to honor the man who inspired the movement: “We do have a national theme day, which is Harvey Milk Day in May, for his birthday.” Well done, Mr. Biel. Harvey would be capital- P Proud.


For more information about Gay For Good and its SouthernCalifornia chapters, go to gayforgood.org.


12


RAGE monthly | December 2019


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