Advocating for, supporting and celebrating the LGBTQ community
Years active: 40+
Leadership: Sharon Esther Papo, executive director
Their story: The LGBTQ community in Santa Cruz organized the first-annual gay pride festival in 1975, which later led to establishment of the brick-and-mortar Santa Cruz Lesbian and Gay Community Center in 1989. Since then, the Diversity Center has worked to provide support, resources and activities for the community. Each year, the organization reaches around 8,000 people through programs and educational events, and 20,000 through outreach.
Fundraising focus: During the COVID-19 crisis, the Diversity Center is offering a safety net in the form of $500 to members of the LGBTQ+ community whose health or finances have been impacted by the pandemic. People can contribute to the LGBTQ+ Emergency Aid on the center’s website. General donations and proceeds from fundraisers like its annual Gala — a virtual affair this year — have helped the Diversity Center maintain its position as the county’s chief agency promoting social justice and building a sense of community among LGBTQ+ people. The center brings together queer and questioning teens to create safer schools. It offers bilingual programs for young adults and organizes activities for LGBTQ+ seniors over the age of 60. It also conducts diversity training for local businesses, healthcare workers and law enforcement. And it operates federal grant programs to benefit the LGBTQ+ population of Santa Cruz County.
As the LGBTQ movement we have come incredibly far, but the struggles that LGBTQ people still experience is testament to how far we still have to go.