December 13, 2018 at 11:07 am PST | by Scott Stiffler
Consider a gift to LGBTQ non-profits in LA

Parked outside of bars and at community events, AIDS Healthcare Foundation testing vans are a familiar, and welcome, sight. (Photo courtesy AHF)

You get back what you give. But when your end-of-the-year generosity extends to a non-profit working for the betterment of LGBTQ people, the tax benefit that a charitable contribution provides pales alongside the lives it can change and save — and if you should ever find yourself in need, the life you save may be your own. Here are a few worthy destinations for your dollars.

EQUALITY CALIFORNIA (eqca.org)

The nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ civil rights organization, noted Executive Director Rick Zbur, brings the voices of those people “and our allies to institutions of power,” locally and nationwide, in the name of “creating a world that is healthy, just, and fully equal.” Those efforts include “advancing pro-equality legislation that will actually improve ‘lived equality.’ It’s not just about civil rights protections. It’s about improving the lives of people in our community.”

Although Equality California receives limited assistance from government and foundation sources, , most of what funds their education, electoral, advocacy, and mobilization mission comes from “individuals and companies that support our work,” Zbur noted. “We have to raise all of that [annual budget] every year, largely through grassroots donors.” And 2019, he said, will be a year when their agenda finds itself in alignment with a political landscape conducive to achieving real and lasting change.

“We’ve got a historic opportunity,” Zbur said, with “supermajorities in both houses of the California legislature, and a pro-equality majority in Congress” — hence their eye on statewide efforts to “protect kids in our schools. And in Congress, we’re really working hard to gain support, not only for the Equality Act, but a host of other bills” addressing senior rights, conversion therapy, and the panic defense. Discussions are already underway with potential Congressional bill authors. “There’s a whole lot of things we can do at the federal level,” Zbur noted, based on advances gained in California.

AIDS HEALTHCARE FOUNDATION (aidshealth.org)

Global in its reach and a robust presence in Los Angeles, AHF serves people living with HIV and AIDS: 1,045,550 clients in 43 countries. Not bad, for an organization that began in 1987 by collecting coins and cash door-to-door, to open the first HIV hospice in Los Angeles.

Today, AHF is a 1.5 billion agency, noted Senior Director of Communications Ged Kenslea, who said individual donations “are important. They tie people to positive actions, from South Central Los Angeles to South Africa.” While there has been great progress made, he said, “There are easily 18-20 million people living without lifesaving care, worldwide,” even though, “in some of these countries, the cost can be as little as $100 a year.

HIV and STD testing are also a robust component of the AHF mission, with mobile units making regular appearances outside bars and community events. Having said that, “The audience for the Blade,” Kenslea noted, “is going to know, first and foremost, our Out of the Closet thrift store chain, and we also run the chain of AHF pharmacy outlets. We now have 48 pharmacies in 12 states, and those are full-service, including opportunities for HIV or AIDS patients to get custom detailing by pharmacists, who are very knowledgeable about managing HIV care.”

Funds generated from the pharmacy, Kenslea said, are “put back into the community, in terms of the free services that we do.” Although this source constitutes the majority of AHF’s revenue, “It does not diminish the impact, and our appreciation, of individual donors… Until this epidemic is over, and until there is a functional measure to prevent people from acquiring HIV, we, as a community, need to mobilize as best we can.”

THE COALITION FOR HUMANE IMMIGRANT RIGHTS OF LOS ANGELES (chirla.org)

CHIRLA’s bilingual, ESL education classes prepare people for their driver’s license and citizenship tests. (Photo courtesy of CHIRLA)

Founded in 1986, CHIRLA is dedicated to achieving a just society fully inclusive of immigrants, by serving immigrant families and individuals who “act as agents of social change to achieve a world with freedom of mobility, full human rights, and true participatory democracy.”

At seven locations throughout California, including downtown, south, and east Los Angeles, all services are free of charge. But funding those services, of course, costs — which makes your contribution a crucial component.

“It’s about people empowering people,” said Director of Communications Jorge-Mario Cabrera, “and the donations we receive by individuals add up.”

On Cabrera’s mind these days, is “the migrant caravan that’s coming. One of the first concerns that I personally had, was the LGBTQs who are part of that caravan. We know they are fleeing, because homophobia is rampant.” Even within the caravan, he noted, “You can have discrimination against queer folk — not only on their way to the promised land, but also in terms of the violence and human rights violations in places like El Salvador and Nicaragua.”

Whether part of the immigrant community living in the states while living with HIV, or en route to this country, LGBTQs, Cabrera said, benefit from CHIRLA services and resources. “We just sent a delegation of eight immigration attorneys to Tijuana, to work with the migrants seeking asylum,” he noted, “and that was largely paid for by our general fund.”

THE LOS ANGELES LGBT CENTER’S CHILDREN, YOUTH, and FAMILY SERVICES (lalgbtcenter.org/social-service-and-housing/youth)

During the past 18 months, the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Youth Center has seen an increase, by double digits, in the number of visits. (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles LGBT Center)

Next year will see the Center celebrate its half-century mark. But it’s not resting on that laurel, or resting at all, for that matter. In April, “a new campus to house all of our youth programming,” will open, said Simon Costello, Director of Children, Youth, and Family Services — who prefaced that good news by noting, “The holiday time is particularly challenging for the young people we work with, who are disconnected from their families. When we ask why they’re not home, they say they were asked to leave because of who they are, and how they identify.”

The Center, he said, strives “to give these people a place to stay,” and is making strides to double that effort. The housing program currently accommodates 62 — but when the campus opens, that number will grow to 100, shortly followed by “an extra 24 supporting apartment units.” In addition to housing, Costello noted, “We put a lot of work into education and employment.” A new Youth Academy on campus will provide those they serve with “an opportunity to get their [high school] education or a college degree, and a meaningful career path, so they can gain independence.”

Your donations will help secure those goals. And the need has increased in proportion to the numbers of homeless youth drawn to Los Angeles — forty percent of whom identify as LGBTQ.

“In the last 18 months,” Costello noted, “our number of visits has grown by double digits. I think that’s not unrelated to the current political climate. These young people are more marginalized than they have been in the past.”

As for a present that will pay dividends in the future, Costello said monetary donations are always appreciated — but “gift cards, socks, and underwear” are also “things that make these programs work.”

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