Speaker 1 00:00:19 Hi, y'all. Welcome back to Just a Bite. I'm your host, Sarah Koons. This week I talked to Michael Note, executive director and founder of Have a Gay Day in Dayton, Ohio. Have, AGA Day is a food pantry that provides other resources to folks facing food insecurity and poverty in Montgomery County. Their philosophy and mission is to serve folks with kindness, compassion, and dignity, and provide a safe space for LGBTQ plus people in their community.
Speaker 2 00:01:02 Hi Michael. Thank you so much for being on the podcast today. Could you introduce yourself to our listeners?
Speaker 3 00:01:09 Sure. My name is Michael Note. I'm the executive director of Have a Gay Day, a nonprofit organization in Dayton, Ohio. We have been a nonprofit for seven years, and we have a physical space that runs as a community center, 3,400 square feet, and our food pantry is one of our food programs, um, that we have for the community.
Speaker 2 00:01:35 Great. Yeah, and from my understanding, it all kind of started from a Facebook page, um, years ago. How did you sort of transition from that Facebook page to such a, a vibrant community space and food pantry?
Speaker 3 00:01:53 So in 2014, 15, we transitioned to a space because we wanted to put up billboards across, um, the area, just sharing resources for the community, just giving everyone a platform. And we did that. Um, and when people were wanting to donate to us, we said maybe we should become a charity. Maybe we should be a little bit more physically responsible. And we put in the paperwork and became a charity. At that time, starting as a Facebook page, we started February 25th, 2012. So we've been around for about 11 years now, and we have 1.45 million people that follow us. So we're quite substantial when it comes to that. And, uh, I don't know, it's been, it's been pretty amazing. We've grown as an organization as far as our space. We started with 150 square feet of space and Dayton to a thousand square feet. At that time, we partnered with the food bank and we started giving away food, trying to fill in those voids.
Speaker 3 00:03:09 We then moved to this location and had 2200 square feet and then expanded to 3,400 square feet, not even two years ago. So it's been a lot of growth. It's been amazing. It's really about finding the voids of service in the community and filling those voids. So pre pandemic, uh, into the pandemic, there were people that couldn't make it to a food pantry, and we were using our cars, so we would drive food to people that couldn't make it. And then we had some granting, um, that came through from the Hall Hunker Initiative, P Flag and some others here locally. And we were able to purchase a little minivan, like a little transit van, and we started even making more deliveries and we were probably doing 20 to 30 deliveries a week. And then DoorDash reached out to us and we started doing 50 to 60 deliveries a week.
Speaker 3 00:04:11 And over the last year, we've delivered to more than 3000 households in the county of Montgomery County. And we still are a partner with DoorDash up until, I believe they extended our contract with them up until October. So we actually have until October to still have our, um, deliveries going through DoorDash. They deliver for about 10 miles, and then we will deliver the rest of the way if it's outside of that 10 mile area. Yeah, it's just been, it's been growth last year just through the food bank. We went through I think 86,000 pounds of food. So it is growth. We're hoping to expand even more, maybe a second location, but the need of the community is, is a lot. Right now we're helping about anywhere between 90 to 110 families a week.
Speaker 2 00:05:04 Yeah. And transportation and delivery is such a, such a barrier and such a huge cost for a, a pantry or a, a food bank. Um, and so it's really great that you are able to fill in those gaps in the Dayton area and in Montgomery County because yeah, it's like that is such, uh, a barrier for folks to make it to their, their pantry.
Speaker 3 00:05:32 It is. I, I wish it wasn't the case. I know for even our location, when someone comes in, a lot of our food pantry items, we sort of pre bag items ahead of time. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> that way. Um, I move this over, you can kind of see back in the corner there's bags that are made and prepped and we have amazing volunteers which come in to do that. And then we will actually have individuals that are sitting here. So everyone has air conditioning, there's no lines. Um, and it's a pretty quick and smooth process as far as helping people get in and out at the location. We also have carts, so they're like blue, um, carts that people can push out and come back that way they don't have to carry anything themselves. There's a couple ramps, um, as far as our location and we have a giant parking lot as well.
Speaker 3 00:06:28 So even in that, we also have a little pantry that's out front. We have additional funding as well, which is in partnership with Meyer that allows us to put together emergency bags for individuals that may not be, um, in like, have a physical address or a photo ID or the requirements that are needed. We'll still be able to give them food or referrals. So again, it's just about filling in those voids. And the great part with our delivery program is that no matter where we deliver system or not as far as what's in place, we're still able to accommodate those individuals. But we also give away pet food, personal care, household cleaning, and um, whatever we can do, we try to make the limitation for the access to, um, whatever it is that we can give as little as possible.
Speaker 2 00:07:28 Yeah, absolutely. And from what I could tell, you also do emergency shelter as well. Yeah. Tell me a little bit more about that.
Speaker 3 00:07:38 Sure. So we have a program called the ADA Gaden project, and the way it works is, initially Ada Gaden was someone that used to volunteer with us, was on our board, and a couple of years ago she passed away and, um, I guess trigger warning as far as by her own hand, um, she took her life, but the legacy of Ada, as all of her struggles and everything that she went through, she was one of the most kind amazing people ever. She would open up her couch to anyone that was in need. She would go out of her way. She was sort of like a traveler. She traveled across the country, you know, hung out with bands, hung out at different places, and she was one of the most amazing people. And there were always these barriers that we would find in place. You know, she would always find these barriers, well, why can't I access this?
Speaker 3 00:08:37 Or why can't I access that? So what we did was after her passing, we decided to take a program as far as emergency housing, kind of a short term and dedicated to her life. So we've partnered with a hotel or two in the area, and people go to our website, fill out a form. A lot of times we'll ask them to check in with other agencies if there is a, um, you know, a specific need. Like, I can't go to the shelter because of this or an age job, this program, or there is no bed for me. Or a lot of times it'll be an agency that will refer and so we'll put someone at a hotel for a night or two. It isn't just within the lgbtq plus community, but a lot of it is focused in that regard as far as safety. Yeah.
Speaker 3 00:09:25 So, you know, if someone says, well, I can't go to the shelter because, um, I just don't like it there, um, it may not be the perfect fit. Um, a lot of it is, you know, I can't go to the shelter because of this reasoning and if the reasoning falls within the program, then it's a night or two. So it's something that also her family has helped fund. It is something that the community has helped fund. Um, over the last year, I would say we've probably put in about 40 to 45 people as far as giving them a night at the hotel. Um, it is not government funded, so the funding isn't, um, a lot, but it's, it makes it happen sometimes. So yeah, eventually what we want to do with the program is we want to purchase property and build monolithic dome homes for emergency housing and have an offering of wraparound services that don't have limitations and that are community funded versus government funded. That way there is no restriction, but there is a solid program in place to be able to help people.
Speaker 2 00:10:45 Yeah. What a great way to, um, have her legacy live on. Seems like you, you all have a really great plan in place for the future. Um, and I'm excited to follow that and see, see how it, um, turns out. So for those who don't know, why is it so important to provide a variety of different resources, um, in one place and through one organization, both for the LGBTQ Q Q community, but also just in general?
Speaker 3 00:11:17 Sure. So on the front of our windows, um, which may not even be able to see because of where we're sitting right now, but there's actually posters of resources and the posters of resources have QR codes across the front of our windows, which points people to different agencies across the area and across the state. Um, help lines L G B T focused organizations and businesses as well as non-focused L G B T organizations and businesses. The thing is, when you're going through something that is traumatic and tra uh, traumat looks different to different people as far as not getting a paycheck for the week, not knowing where your food is coming from, not being able to have, um, a special kind of shampoo maybe for your child that has an allergy to normal shampoos, whatever that looks like as far as traumatic, a lot of people don't have the energy and space to be able to spend days and days and days trying to sort through all the resources.
Speaker 3 00:12:21 There are great places out there like two 11, but also some of the agencies, community connections and others and resources in the community change very frequently. And some may not always be up to date. I'm sure ours aren't always up to date either. But the more places that you can put that are supportive of people just existing, the easier it makes it for other people that are looking for help. And if we can reduce the number of roadblocks, fences and gates where people can access things, it makes all the difference. When it comes to the LGBTQ plus community, we're the only food pantry that is open here on a Sunday in this county. Many are faith-based organizations and there may be one or two that are out there that tie in, but from what we've understood, we're the only one doing it when it comes to delivering food to the whole community.
Speaker 3 00:13:21 Um, I believe we're the only one currently that's doing that as well. There are some which will use DoorDash or some which will, you know, do one or two emergency deliveries. Um, but again, we're filling in the voids. Why does it make a difference when it comes to the LGBTQ plus community doing it? I believe the big thing is, is the kindness, is the understanding that when someone walks in, there isn't a judgment as far as your situation, but the understanding that you need the services of food no matter how you vote, no matter how you believe, no matter how you exist, that's you. Here. We try to be a respecter of all persons no matter how that looks, because at the end of the day, we are the only people that pay to be on this planet. And when it comes to the quality of food, quality of care and quality of life, we have set those rules.
Speaker 3 00:14:26 So the best thing that we can do is to be kind. And a lot of us, I will say as volunteers, I've been a volunteer with this organization since its beginning because I've founded it. I've never been paid to be here, but I've been through many things as far as homelessness, working for shelters. And I understand, and I think once you understand what it's really like to wait in a line for an hour for food, to be in a place that doesn't judge you, to be in a place that is kind, it gives you a little bit of air conditioning that doesn't look down on you in some sort of way, it makes all the difference. I know that there are a lot of L G B T individuals that come to our location as well as others because each food pantry has a diverse amount of food as far as, you know, the freshness, the variety, there's different levels of pantry and different kinds of experiences. But the thing is, when someone comes here, they don't have to have some sort of fear as far as this is me and this is my partner, this is my spouse, this is someone who I live with. They can be authentically themselves without having to work through the judgment of who they are. And that's a beautiful thing.
Speaker 2 00:15:42 Yeah, definitely. Thank you for that. Um, we talk about this a lot in terms of when you're hungry or when you're food insecure, it, you're usually also have other barriers in place. Um, and so if we can alleviate those barriers, bring all these resources together to help you, I mean that, that is the best option for folks who are experiencing food insecurity
Speaker 3 00:16:14 Always. And the thing is, the access to resources shouldn't be limited. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> based on an individual's journey or path or life mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, A lot of times there are different things that are in place as far as tracking the numbers, making sure that the people in the community are getting the resources that it's supposed to go to, of course. But at the same time, I think people that can find the resources in one spot go to that one spot, like pet food as an example. I think there's maybe two pantries in the county, maybe three that give out pet food. We give out pet food as well when we have it. We go through a probably as fast as we can get in and it's out. Um, we have a couple places that donate pallet of pet food, um, at a time.
Speaker 3 00:17:14 We don't break it down, we keep it in the bags that it's in and hand it out full size, so like 30 or 40 pound bags. But the thing is most people don't realize when it comes to a lot of people that are experiencing different things, they'll take care of their pets before they take care of themselves. Because to them, that is their friend, their friend that they can't get by without. You can't, you know, some people refer to shelters, a lot of times you can't take your pet to a shelter. And so people won't go to shelters, they'll stay on the street because they wanna make sure that they're with their, let's say, service animal, let's say friend, let's say someone that they consider part of the family. So again, having pet food makes it where individuals can feed their pets and also feed themselves and having, again, the resources all in one place.
Speaker 3 00:18:11 And then also referring to other agencies, not trying to have some sort of ownership. I believe sometimes when it comes to food, when it comes to services in general, there should always be a thought of like case management, even if it's on a volunteer basis, even if it's an offering, because you never know where someone is. But one of the first things when it comes to survival is food. So hopefully we'll do that in the future as well. As far as a little bit more like case management in hiring individuals too, not for the aspect of personal information, not for the aspect of ownership of the individual situation, but to be able to connect individuals with other resources in the community. Because a lot of resources in the community are also very underfunded when it comes to the promotion that they exist. A lot of it's by word of mouth programs that are very temporary and things that shift and change in the community based on the funding dollars that are available.
Speaker 2 00:19:21 Yeah, the, the funding piece is huge as well. Um, I know that's a, a large barrier. Um, but yeah, definitely it seems like sometimes it's a full-time job trying to navigate these systems or these resources <laugh>. Um, and so yeah, that, I think
Speaker 3 00:19:42 There's, I think another component for us also is our technology. So we're one of the only food pantries I believe in the area that you can text. So people can text us, they can call us. Um, we have a system that actually allows our volunteers to use a phone app to be able to track everything. As far as speaking with everyone when it comes to our deliveries, we have a, um, a Google form that people can fill out, which puts it into an Excel spreadsheet that we're able to upload and track for the bags that are being delivered. We're able to use a thermal printer to print off labels. So each bag has its own label when they're being picked up by the drivers and it's, you know, points of technology. But again, it's points of accessibility. So the access to things, people may have their phone shut off, but sometimes they can text.
Speaker 3 00:20:36 Um, people may not be able to use the internet, but they can text, you know, people picking up for them or deliveries. It's a lot of access, you know, people using buses to get somewhere versus the ability to have a delivery. But what's the cost for deliveries? For us right now, it's probably about $15,000 a year, which is a lot. But also at the same time, the benefit of it is everything to understand that you're able to make deliveries to an additional 40 households. As our funding increases, we imagine we'll expand that as our location size increases. We'll probably expand that too. Even though our pantry program is one of the largest programs we have, it is not the sole program of the organization for the longevity of what we do. Eventually in time with wraparound services, we would like to provide most human decency services when it comes to care.
Speaker 3 00:21:40 Care should always be wraparound because the interactions we have with people are multi-leveled, even if we want to say that it's only one thing. Even though as organizations we're focused on what we do best, sometimes what the community needs is almost like a resource fair of benefits that at the end of the day they can walk away with answers more than this is just a stopping point on my journey and whatever this is for what I'm going through. So I believe like multi-agency networking and multi-agency understanding and bringing agencies together. At the end of the day, it isn't about an agency's visibility or our namesake or the legacy of what we do as much as it is about on how we serve and that we serve well.
Speaker 2 00:22:43 Um, have a gay day provides a welcoming and safe inclusive environment, um, for all folks, but especially local L G B LGBTQ people. Um, and of course there are organizations and, um, places that are not friendly and welcoming to L G LGBTQ people. Um, I was wondering what are the unique challenges you see L G B LGBTQ folks with low incomes facing, um, and how does stigma and discrimination contribute to those challenges or cause those challenges?
Speaker 3 00:23:29 I think walking into a space that you know isn't supportive of who you are is one of the greatest challenges in the community. There are people that will be kind to you, but based on how they look at you, based on how they talk about you, based on the whispers of you entering into a room, it makes you feel a little different when you walk into a place that doesn't have some sort of a policy that really matches the injustice for all posters. If you walk into a place that you know is giving you food on Monday, but on Sunday is saying that you have an issue existing just because you exist, it's weird to work for a company that tells you that they love you and gives you the benefits to survive, but at the same time won't recognize you on different days through the year that you celebrate policies in place or not in place that lets you live more comfortably or exist more comfortably or even exist at all. So the need for inclusivity, the need for there to be action behind the words, the need for there to be not just policy but follow through and to be an ally of the community basically means you leave yourself at the door and understand the people that walk through your door are just trying to make it.
Speaker 2 00:25:47 That was a great answer, thank you. Of course, the L G B T Q community is not a monolith. And of course there's, there's many nuances when it comes to each individual's experiences based on how they identify the other identities that they hold. Um, and you know, that impacts how they're treated and how and other types of barriers that they face when they're accessing resources or just living in the world. Um, I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the differences between, you know, folks living at those intersections.
Speaker 3 00:26:29 So when it comes to the LGBTQ plus community in full transparency, I believe that there even is a need for an update when it comes to the community in general. The thing that's needed is more inclusivity. Inclusivity when it comes to the language there is on our forms, when someone comes in, there's male and female, so mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, I believe we can also not disclose, um, but more inclusive language when it comes to menstruation items, the use of the terminology. Would you like feminine and hygiene project products instead of, would you like any menstruation items when it comes to the registration of individuals based on how they identify? We may put in an individual's name, but also it would be interesting if we ever put in someone's preferred name.
Speaker 3 00:27:46 And I'm not just saying that with the LGBTQ plus community in general, but because the legalities of it in this state, it would make a difference when it comes to the access. A lot of people will not go to a pantry because of the judgment, because of having to explain yourself. If we have someone that comes in and they're a part of the community and let's say on their id, it's different than am I invalidating the individual by saying, well here's this or here's that. Do I refer to them as the name that's on their id? You know, what are the procedures and policies when it comes to that? But it's the overall experience. And then how far does that go by the person that's reporting that information? And because also with volunteerism, sometimes there's age gap, sometimes there's a lack of education, there's a personal understanding.
Speaker 3 00:28:55 And so what sort of experience and follow through a week giving to people that would be our community or clients, um, or people depending on how you refer. So when it comes to transgender individuals, when it comes to the paperwork that's in place, the policies that are in place, they feel a little behind. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And while I know it's something that is ever changing and that we're working on, I feel that the reasoning behind the injustice for all the reasoning behind policies that are inclusive is that when an individual comes in for service, it should be an easier experience and not one, at the end of the day, they have regrets coming to because of policies that don't include them from the ground floor.
Speaker 3 00:30:01 So back into the conversation of menstruation, back into the conversation of, um, different items that may be gender specific. Imagine coming in and just saying to every single person, would you like menstruation items? No matter how they identifier, not just maybe someone in their household needs it, who knows? Would you like tampons or pads? Would you like a cup? Would you like, you know, this is what we have. Or even making it readily available and putting it on a table and saying, if you'd like one, you can have one or you can have two. That way you don't have to ask anyone. Again, each individual is each individual. Um, but I think again, the more accommodating we can be to everyone, the better. Because you never know. And I wouldn't wanna stand there and ever look at someone and say, this is a transgender individual because in some regard, I should never in my mind want to out someone, even in my own thinking, my service and give to the community should be inclusive itself. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and the programs and services that you have available, if it is a language barrier, you should work on not having a language barrier. If that's with an interpreter, if that's with the program, if that's with the tablet that does language for you, you should always expect the unexpected. But you shouldn't stop or have to stop or have to pause based on the difference of the individual in front of you that you may or may not have had some sort of training or lack of training about.
Speaker 3 00:31:58 So the process of food should be a process of food. It should never come to, well, this is different. So we pause and we stop. We have to argue, we have to explain, we have to say, this is right or wrong, it should be, this is what we have. Um, is there anything that you need? If they say yes, fantastic. If they say no, then fan, that's fantastic too. And the process should be smooth, it should be high, you know, um, this is your name. Do you have, you know, is there a nickname or another name that you would prefer? Um, something to that effect. Um,
Speaker 2 00:32:46 I appreciate it. Yeah. Um, you talked a little bit about this already, but do you have anything to add in terms of how organizations can better serve their local LGBTQ community, um, and, and create inclusive environments? I know that you talked about making sure, um, being neutral in your language and you know, offering everything to everyone. Um, I was wondering if you had anything else to add.
Speaker 3 00:33:17 I believe the greatest thing that I could ever imagine to say is when you show love, show it unconditionally. When you show kindness, show kindness without the expectation of a return.
Speaker 3 00:33:39 For some people in some places, it is probably going to be impossible for them to ever truly understand the LGBTQ plus community. It's unfortunate, it really is. But in the same way that someone is coming to you for food in your time of need, I can only imagine what it would be like to walk into a place and someone not treat you the best, but also can, I can imagine what it would be like to go into a place and you get treated perfectly. It's like going out to dinner and you have a server and they're giving you food and you're getting ready to tip them. And you think about the service and how everything would be.
Speaker 3 00:34:33 We always look for a great service. We always look for the best experiences. We always get involved with different things, um, across the board. We want the best for our kids, for our family, for our life. And that should always be expected by any individual that's walking in for service. What does that mean for a place that is giving out food or services? I know some places can't put up a rainbow sign, a rainbow support a rainbow anything because the underlying of their faith or their belief or their conviction or their write-ups say, no, it's not a thing. But perhaps there could be some sort of a support for an individual that just needs a support.
Speaker 3 00:35:34 Maybe there could be a little bit more of an added kindness and education and an understanding. I was sitting at a, at a meeting, it's been a year or two ago now, and I was sitting with a couple people that represented food pantries and in this space they were going to create a list of pantries that were lgbtq plus friendly. And there was one person there that said it's a sin. And started talking about the sinning aspect of the LGBTQ plus community. And in the back of my gut soul and everything else, I said to myself, but how would I ever feel safe coming to you if you feel I'm wrong for even existing? If you feel I'm a sin, my personal belief for what is right and for what is wrong should never limit your existence.
Speaker 3 00:36:55 It should never take away from the fact that you should have the same freedoms as I do to be able to get food without condemnation. And for your survival, your survival shouldn't be tied into my judgment or my own path. So what can places do? Maybe show up at places and spaces that show that you support. Maybe volunteer at another food pantry, maybe a, you know, one food pantry should volunteer at another food pantry. See how other people operate. Learn from each other, grow from each other. Maybe ask the question, well, why aren't these people coming to this food pantry? If you're a food pantry that serves everyone, why do some people choose this pantry over another pantry? And then also ask yourself, why is that? Why is it that people that are in need won't come here? Or if they've come here, how was their experience?
Speaker 3 00:38:09 Say hello. Say goodbye. Ask people how you are. You know, back in the day when we had a lot smaller business, you knew who was coming in, you knew who was leaving, you knew what to expect. And a lot of pantries, I think they're kind of like that too. They know people, oh, hi, I haven't seen you in a while. How's everything going? How's the kids? How's the family? How's the dog? And maybe sometimes in that personal kind of relationship with people, more kindness, more understanding and less judgment. I think the biggest thing that I've heard from people is, well, what if they abuse the system? What if they abuse the service when it comes to deliveries, when it comes to these, you know, additional services? And at the end of the day, it's food, it's deliveries, and people are in need. If someone's driving up to you and they're in this beautiful brand new Cadillac.
Speaker 3 00:39:11 I think of this story because it was actually on how a food pantry I know got started. They were an an unfortunate separation and the only thing that was left to them was the Cadillac insurance wasn't paid. They were behind on their payments and they hardly had a tank of gas to get to a pantry. And the pantry because previously they had made too much money. They had, you know, to negotiate on how that pantry helped or they wouldn't help. I think, and this has been a couple years ago and things for them have changed, but they started their own pantry because of it. But I think the biggest thing to understand is when someone's walking in, you don't know their story. You don't know who they are. You can find every reason to judge someone, but they're looking for you to uplift them and keep them in a place of survival. And hopefully we don't just help people survive, but we help them thrive.
Speaker 2 00:40:18 Thank you so much, Michael, for all that you do and for talking to me today. I really appreciate it. That was a great place to end, I think. Um, just one final question for you. How can listeners learn more about have a gay day
Speaker 3 00:40:35 On our website? Uh, we, you can go to have a gay day.org mm-hmm. <affirmative> also in this month, if you donate $10 to have a gay day, either online or through our Facebook, it helps us win a $10,000 grant. Something else we have in the fall is a Meyer double match day. We do have fundraisers that we have throughout the year for that. And on that day we go to Meyer and purchase gift cards. This last year we received $22,000 from Meyer. And a lot of that fills in the voids for us as an organization to give fresh items away to the community. We're always in need of pet food, personal care, household cleaning items, um, volunteers as well. Um, but I think the biggest thing to support us is to support the community that surrounds you. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> make it where we aren't the only L G B T organization that has a, a food pantry that gives back in such a way because there's people that travel for counties and counties away to us just because they know they're walking through our front door on a Sunday, that the only thing that we're going to meet them with and greet them with is what they ask for.
Speaker 3 00:41:53 That's the biggest thing, be the difference you want to see. If you want to see kindness, then create it and make it unrestricted, make it inclusive. And when you say inclusive, match that inclusivity with what you do.
Speaker 0 00:42:22 According
Speaker 1 00:42:23 To a report done by UCLA's Williams Institute, 17% of the US L G B T Q population lived in poverty during 2021. This was a decrease from 2020 likely due to the pandemic era aid that supported folks with low incomes through the global crisis. The data also reflects differences in the L g BT Q community with transgender people and cisgender bisexual women having the highest percentage of those who identify living in poverty. 21% of transgender people lived in poverty and 20% of cisgender bisexual women experience poverty in the US in 2021. I think all of us can consider have a gay day's philosophy of treating everyone with love and without judgment. As we create welcoming safe spaces and more inclusive policy of all Ohioans, we serve to learn more about have a gay day and how to donate for them to have a chance of winning a $10,000 grant. Check out the resources listed in the show notes. Thanks for listening, and we will talk to you soon.