Season of Appreciation

July 21, 2015

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By Gary Hollander, PhD, President & CEO

The past several months have been dubbed Season of Appreciation for me at Diverse & Resilient.  One or more times a week I am taken to lunch or dinner by colleagues from other Milwaukee agencies, foundations, or corporations.  People are using these opportunities to tell me about what Diverse & Resilient has meant to them and to our communities across Wisconsin.  They have shared stories about the funny, and sometimes dopey, things I have said to them.  These get-togethers have also been opportunities to share with dozens of people things they have done for me and for LGBTQ public health.

On July 9, 2015 there was a big celebration of leadership at the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center organized by a team led by volunteers Jan Singer and Chris Doerfler.  Scores of people came to wish me well in my encore work and to appreciate me for my commitment to our communities.  They also commemorated the contributions of my late husband, Paul Mandracchia.  While an artist by profession, he was an activist and huge support to me and Diverse & Resilient.

Mayor Barrett, representatives of Congresswoman Moore and Senator Baldwin, Commissioner Bevan Baker, Program Officer Karen Johnson, United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha County’s Nicole Angresano, and others made lovely, thoughtful, and often funny remarks.  There was a Bollywood dance troupe, good food, and great company.  Recently, James Causey wrote in a article about me that I know how to “work a room.”  He is right; I do.  However, I have never felt comfortable with the socializing required to lead an agency.  Despite this, I have forced myself to do so because it is required and essential.

In my closing comments at the celebration, I thanked many people.  Among those I thanked were my foundation and government colleagues for teaching me about friendship, Wisconsin’s transgender community for teaching about being a man, bisexual people for teaching me about fidelity, lesbians for teaching me about generosity, gay men for teaching me about love, and heterosexual people for teaching me about kindness.

In this season of appreciation, as I prepare to leave the organization that I founded, I am reminded that appreciation is a two-way street.  Just as I am finding myself surrounded by words of encouragement and thanks, I am eager to reach as many as I can to say:

Thanks to all for opportunities to partner, to share a big vision for LGBTQ people, to end health disparities, and to achieve a degree of social justice.  While there is a mountain of work ahead, there is another mountain of achievement behind us.

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