2019 Award Recipients
Les Geller and his husband, Allan Geller (formerly Feinstein), stood outside the tiny space on Cabarrus Street in Raleigh that was the first LGBT Center of Raleigh in 2010. Even though he was one of the founders, he had to wait in line to get inside – just like many other enthusiastic early supporters of the Center.
“Oh my gosh, look at that!” he exclaimed to Allan as they drove up. Remembering that first First Friday event, he says, “We didn’t know if anyone would come, but there they were … waiting to come in. It was a precursor of what was to come.”
Les, who uses he/him pronouns, served on the founding Board of the LGBT Center of Raleigh and was its treasurer for those early years. He was the designer of the spaces on Cabarrus, Hillsborough, and Harrington Streets.
The LGBT Center of Raleigh is thrilled to honor the First Lady of North Carolina, Kristin Cooper, with our Ally of the Year award. The First Lady has shown an enormous amount of support for the LGBTQ Community.
When asked about her connection to the community, the First Lady answers, “My family and I love theatre and all the creative arts. Two of my three daughters have degrees in performing arts, while Roy and I had one of our first dates at a musical theatre performance. We live in a metropolitan area, enjoy great food, and I admit that I love fabulous clothes and design. Within all these communities and interests, I’ve found loving members of the LGBTQ+ Community. These community members have found a safe, supportive space with me — I love that! And I love them!”
The First Lady tells us she is excited about the future for the LGBTQ+ community as we continue to move forward and see even greater progress with LGBTQ+ social justice issues during and after 2020. She believes that we will build upon what Governor Cooper and she, along with the very people in this room of heroes, have valiantly started. The Coopers hosted the first ever Pride Event within the Executive Mansion this past June and she eagerly looks forward to future such events hosted in The People’s House.
To get to know the First Lady better, we asked her what was the most fun and interesting part about being First Lady of North Carolina, and to tell us some interesting things about her.
At one time, Raleigh Pride was a group of downtown Raleigh acquaintances whose lives crossed paths often. When Roxanne Lundy sparked the idea for a Raleigh Pride, Trey Roberts and Josh Lamm joined forces as co-organizers.
They became fast friends while organizing Raleigh Pride. They were motivated to bring to Raleigh a truly inclusive and representative Pride Month, and they did just that! They engaged local businesses, artists, and entertainers in the area that each of them have supported individually.
We had a conversation with Rox, Josh, and Trey, the organizers of Raleigh Pride ….
In 2013, Martin Espinoza and Mark Gustasson wanted to find a fun place to play kickball where they and others could always feel welcome, so they decided to organize an inclusive, low-cost, nonprofit sports organization with a philanthropic heart. Stonewall Sports was then born with Stonewall Kickball being the first organized league.
When Jonathan Melton and several others wanted to bring this concept to the Triangle, they thought “Maybe we can get 4 teams of people together for this.” Much to their surprise the first season of Stonewall Kickball in Raleigh attracted 8 teams of 20 players.
As of Fall 2019, Stonewall Sports Raleigh has had over 2,000 individuals playing Kickball, Volleyball, Dodgeball, Flag Football, Bowling, Tennis, and participating in our Run Club throughout the year, and in just a few weeks we will be launching our Softball League consisting of 125 players.
As we continue to accomplish our mission, we have also taken even more dynamic steps to increase awareness of our Community in the Triangle.
We know Natalie Watson as the person who made sure there were enough volunteers to cover each shift at the LGBT Center of Raleigh. Natalie served as our Volunteer Coordinator for 2½ years and has trained many of the people who greet and assist you when you call or come to the Center.
But that is certainly not all of what Natalie did for our Community. Natalie self-identifies as non-binary trans masculine and uses they/them pronouns.
Natalie also works with QORDS (Queer Oriented Radical Days of Summer) and is on the Board of the LGBTQ Center in Durham.
Lisa Tobey, who uses she/her pronouns, first became involved with the LGBT Center of Raleigh in 2016. A friend at one of her other volunteer gigs told her about the Center, so she came to an orientation and loved the energy. In a funny twist, it turns out that her friend was talking about somewhere different, but she was already in love with us, so she stayed.
Since that time, Lisa has committed many hours to the Center, not just for staffing, but also for special events, such as Out! Raleigh, where she has served as a lead volunteer for the past two years. Always willing to jump in, she has repeatedly come in to help the Center with everything from addressing envelopes, to volunteering, to using her very spacious car to help us move to our new space.