PFLAG Taos celebrates scholars, community members

On May 13, PFLAG Taos (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) hosted our Second Annual Award Ceremony. Open Heart Awards went to five community members who demonstrated compassionate leadership and support for our collective vision of moving equality forward.

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On May 13, PFLAG Taos (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) hosted our Second Annual Award Ceremony. Open Heart Awards went to five community members who demonstrated compassionate leadership and support for our collective vision of moving equality forward. We also gave four $1,000 scholarships to students who contributed to building a community that embraces diversity.

Stephanie Yoder, a PFLAG mom and a supporter since 1986, was honored for her active role in the first PFLAG Taos chapter (led by Ada Lemon), as well as her unwavering commitment since Annouk Ellis re-started PFLAG in 2010.

Richard Spera and Matt Thomas gave generously of time and resources in creating events. They repeatedly demonstrated courage and compassion in offering support and hope to our youth.

Janie Corinne, an active member of our speakers bureau and volunteer at PFLAG events, received the award for her leadership in the founding of Taos Pride, as well as her work with Fierce Pride, a tobacco prevention program for LGBTQ individuals.

The Ellis Family was honored for opening their home and hearts to host social and organizational meetings, help prepare public events and parades, and support founder Annouk Ellis’s vision of a better world for all LGBTQ children.

Lisa O’Brien, active PFLAG member, was recognized for her expertise, support, and open heart. Lisa gave personal time in guiding the Board of Directors during the challenging transition in 2013 when Annouk was no longer able to lead. She is one of our strongest straight allies.

These awardees are role models leading the way toward a more peaceful and accepting Taos Community.

Ron Thomas received the LGBTQ Scholarship, donated by Taos Community members, to pursue a degree in English Literature at Eastern New Mexico University.

Andreita Duran, who received the first Annouk Ellis Memorial Scholarship, will study music education at Adams State University in Colorado.

Melanie Maldonado received a Straight Ally Scholarship and will attend High Point University in North Carolina, with a double major in biology and psychology. Her scholarship was made possible by the heartfelt generosity of Nancy Diamond in memory of her mother, Laura Schachter Diamond.

Roland Martinez received the RJFINTER Scholarship to help him finish his degree in dental hygiene at UNM-Taos. His scholarship was made possible through the generosity of Rick Finney and Jerry Walter.

The scholarship in memory of founding Board President Annouk Ellis, who died in late December 2013, will be offered annually. Annouk gave tirelessly, courageously, and completely from her heart so that all LGBTQ children can truly be themselves. The scholarship will be offered for years to come due to generous donations from her family, the Taos Community, and others across New Mexico and the nation. PFLAG Taos is deeply moved by this loving support.

Our scholarships are funded by a diverse coalition of individuals, nonprofit organizations, and businesses. We rely heavily on community members, friends, and families to identify and encourage talented students of all ages and backgrounds to apply. Recipients may be recent high school graduates or returning students, as long as they demonstrate a desire to pursue higher education in order to improve their lives and communities. Support you provide empowers them to achieve a goal, a dream. Success is a road not traveled alone.

As PFLAG Taos Board President, I was humbled and gratified to be able to celebrate with so many courageous and generous people. It’s an honor to work with our Board of Directors, active PFLAG members, and organizations that share our vision that all families matter. We live in a time when more hearts and minds are opening. We hope you will join us in celebrating understanding, acceptance, support, and most of all love.

Please consider how you might offer time or make a donation. In June there are several events to participate in. The Taos Pride fundraising bake sale at Cid’s Food Market is June 6. On Saturday, June 7, you can walk with the “Equality for All Team” in the “For the Health of It” fundraiser or make a contribution (funds support services for people living with cancer). And on Tuesday, June 10 you can attend the next PFLAG monthly meeting, 6:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church of Taos.

Thank you, Taos, for your generosity! Together we are moving equality forward.

Donations may be sent to PFLAG Taos Scholarship Fund, P.O. BOX 665, Taos, NM 87571. PFLAG Taos is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. For more information, visit our website at www.pflagtaos.org or contact me directly.

Barbara J. Sheppard is the PFLAG-Taos Board president.

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