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’Tis the Season for Giving

Four local LGBTQ nonprofits distribute meals, gift cards, and more.

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Volunteers for the Montrose Center

Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, many Houston service organizations have had to change their holiday plans. But even in the face of adversity, the Montrose Center, Montrose Grace Place, Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and PWA Holiday Charities are determined to give back to the community this month. These local LGBTQ nonprofits recently shared their 2020 holiday plans with OutSmart. 

The Montrose Center

The Montrose Center, a nonprofit that offers LGBTQ-affirming services ranging from counseling to education, will host a socially distanced Hatch Youth holiday party for youth ages 7–20. The center is also partnering with the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce to deliver holiday meal boxes to LGBTQ seniors.

At the Hatch event in the Montrose Center’s parking lot, program participants will get the chance to pick up gift bags filled with candy, stuffed animals, art and school supplies, and other donated items. People can donate art supplies, candy, stocking stuffers, and more through December 11 by emailing
[email protected].

Montrose Center’s chief development officer, Kennedy Loftin, says the party is significant to the youth for many reasons. “There are no longer any physical safe spaces at school like the gay-straight alliance clubs, so they’re having a hard time finding other LGBTQ youth to connect with who can help them during this time,” Loftin says. “Our socially distanced parking-lot distribution is so important because, for a lot of these youth, this is their only LGBTQ safe space right now.”

To donate or volunteer, visit montrosecenter.org/hatch-youth.

Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce

The Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce will hold a holiday food drive to support LGBTQ seniors who are part of the Montrose Center’s SPRY program. Holiday boxes will be filled and delivered to the seniors beginning December 7. 

Recipients will get to choose either a holiday meal box featuring a turkey and all of the fixings (cranberry sauce, stuffing, veggies, and more) or a week’s worth of shelf-stable food boxes that will include other donated holiday treats.

People who wish to contribute to the Chamber’s food drive can drop off food on December 4 from 8 a.m. to noon at SignatureCare Emergency Center, 1007  Westheimer. Individuals can also donate to the Chamber’s virtual food drive through December 11.

Tammi Wallace, Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s co-founder, president, and CEO, says the Chamber is sponsoring the Montrose Center’s holiday meal boxes because there is a great need among LGBTQ seniors, especially during the holidays.

According to SAGE, a national advocacy and service organization committed to LGBTQ elders, the pandemic “led to a spike in food insecurity among seniors” who cannot leave their homes to eat meals at senior centers and participate in other programs they’ve grown accustomed to. 

Loftin says the Montrose Center especially wanted to continue the annual tradition of giving holiday meal boxes to seniors after they had to shut down the SPRY Diner, a congregate lunch program at the Montrose Center that provides meals and community for older LGBTQ adults.

“Members of our community relied on these food boxes to help them throughout the holiday season, even before COVID. That puts into perspective how great the need is right now,” says Loftin, noting that the Montrose Center’s emergency food-pantry distributions have tripled since the start of the pandemic. “We know this is going to be a tough holiday season for a lot of our community, and we want to help with these food boxes.”

In addition to food insecurity, Wallace notes that LGBTQ seniors may also face discrimination, economic hardships, and a lack of support from their families of origin—issues the pandemic has exacerbated. 

“One out of five LGBTQ seniors live in food poverty, and that was before the pandemic. So we believe that we have to step up during this time and help those that are most vulnerable in our community during the pandemic,” Wallace says.

For more information on the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce’s Holiday Food Drive and a donation link to the virtual food drive, visit houstonlgbtchamber.com/food-drive.

Montrose Grace Place

The Montrose Grace Place (MGP), an LGBTQ-affirming nonprofit that provides homeless youth ages 13–24 with food, resources, and community, is hosting a socially distanced holiday party as well as its fifth annual gingerbread house competition.

Folks can enter the online competition by buying a ticket and submitting their decorated confectionery by December 7. The gingerbread decorating competition’s award ceremony will be livestreamed on December 12 via Zoom, along with a virtual silent auction featuring donated goods and packages from local businesses.

The nonprofit’s holiday party will take place in December. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, MGP will decorate the front porch area where the youth can pick up their holiday dinners, distribute gifts, and play games, all at a safe distance. MGP volunteer Karen Breitbeil will distribute her holiday stockings and baskets filled with gifts such as McDonald’s cards, socks, and other donated items.

“Just like everybody else, even with COVID, we’re still working really hard for our youth,” says MGP Executive Director Courtney Sellers. “Our fundraiser and donations help us make sure that we can brighten our youth’s holiday season.”

Individuals can help these homeless youth by donating at montrosegraceplace.org/donate.html.

PWA Holiday Charities

PWA Holiday Charities, a nonprofit that raises and dispenses funds for men, women, and children living with and affected by HIV and AIDS, will host and livestream its 32nd Annual Christmas Show fundraising event. PWA will also give holiday gift cards to individuals living with HIV and AIDS.

Hosted by Regina Dane, the Christmas Show officially starts at 6:30 p.m. on December 13 at Tony’s Corner Pocket. Local drag performers Crystal Rae Lee Love and An’Marie Gill will perform at the event, while Amanda Anne Houston emcees. People can watch the performance in person or online. For more information, visit PWA Holiday Charities’ website and Facebook page.

“[We are hosting this event to help those] who are less fortunate during the holidays,” says PWA Holiday Charities Executive Director and Vice President Don Gill. “This year is a struggle for everybody, but big hearts always help out in this community.”

PWA Holiday Charities will also distribute about $12,000 in Kroger and Target gift cards to at least 60 people living with HIV/AIDS so they can buy and prepare their own meals for the holidays.

In keeping with the holiday spirit, the nonprofit granted $3,000 to the Bering Omega Day Treatment Program, which provides financial counseling as well as rent, mortgage, and utilities assistance to people living with HIV. PWA Holiday Charities has also paid Netflix’s yearly subscription fee on behalf of Bering Omega and Omega House, which provides hospice care to people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS.

“We lift the spirits of people living with HIV and AIDS during the holidays, and we are not willing to let the current world circumstances prevent us from meeting our goals,” Gill says.

Individuals can donate to PWA Holiday Charities at pwaholidaycharities.org/Donate.php.

This article appears in the December 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.

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Lillian Hoang

Lillian Hoang is a staff reporter for OutSmart Magazine. She graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in journalism and minor in Asian American studies. She works as a College of Education communication assistant and hopes to become an editor-in-chief.
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