By JOANN KOKINDO, BRADLEY HILL, JIM SLATTERY & MARK CLARK
When asked, Brother, Help Thyself may not be the first charity that comes to mind for most D.C./Baltimore region GLBTQ residents. So, it’s time to get reacquainted.
Brother, Help Thyself was founded in 1978 by four gay motorcycle clubs in the District of Columbia and Baltimore and is one of the first organizations in the United States to provide funding for GLBTQ health, cultural and social services. The first fundraising drive by the then Capital Area Board of Leather and Levi Motorcycle Clubs raised $4,518. Today, our member clubs number 11 and since 1978 we have raised and distributed more than $2.1 million to more than 130 groups in our community.
Those grants, many of them small, have helped numerous bootstrap organizations start up and then thrive so well that they outgrew our ability to provide support. Our grant dollars have also helped food pantries buy refrigerators and freezers; service organizations buy computers and printers to stay in touch with clients and supporters; care providers meet the special needs of those suffering from HIV/AIDS; and sex workers keep free of STDs and remain physically safe. These are but a sampling of the ways in which Brother, Help Thyself has worked over the years on behalf of our wonderful community.
For a glimpse into Brother, Help Thyself’s typical year, let’s start with January when we award grants to organizations that have applied in the summer of the previous year. We also give out special awards to those who work especially hard for our community. Next, our annual meeting occurs in March and the board of directors meets on the second Wednesday of each month. We should note that all of our meetings are open to anyone that would like to attend.
As early in the year as possible, we begin negotiating terms of our biggest annual fundraiser: Gay and Lesbian Night at King’s Dominion held in September. That event has grown from a few hundred GLBTQ people mixing in with the general public to enjoy the rides into what is now several thousand gathered for our own exclusive party complete with DJ and dancing in the street in front of the Eiffel Tower. Once this event is behind us, we meet with grant applicants at hearings in late September and early October, where they present on behalf of their causes. Notable is the fact that each year, far more is requested than we have in our treasury. We then spend the remainder of the year reviewing grant applications and our clubs vote on allotments to organizations they wish to support. Simple mathematics then determines how much each grantee will receive.
The year 2013 will be no typical year for Brother, Help Thyself. We will celebrate 35 years of service to the D.C./Baltimore region’s GLBTQ community. We hope you’ll stay tuned as we announce the exciting details of our 35th Anniversary Gala to be held in conjunction with the awarding of our 2013 grants.
Throughout each year, Brother, Help Thyself raises funds and then disburses direct and matching funds, partners with grantees and member clubs on fundraisers and other events, acts as a clearinghouse for donated goods and services, and serves as an information resource to the GLBTQ community.
Our component organizations now extend beyond the leather community. Brother, Help Thyself consists of membership from: the Atlantic States Gay Rodeo Association, Beltway Bears, Centaur MC, Chesapeake Bay Bears, C.O.M.M.A.N.D. MC, the District of Columbia Bear Club, DC Boys of Leather, Defenders LLC, Highwaymen TNT, SigMa, and Spartan MC. Please be on the lookout for events to benefit the charitable work of our organization. We, and our grantees, appreciate it more than you will know.
JoAnn Kokindo, Bradley Hill, Jim Slattery and Mark Clark are president, vice president, secretary and treasurer of Brother, Help Thyself’s board of directors respectively.