Meet 2010′s Out.Spoken. Richmonder Of The Year
Moms just want the best for their kids. When a bully comes into town, what do you do?
For Sarah Allen-Short, Jessica Lucia, Sara Heifetz, and Patience Salgado, the answer was a no-brainer. Stand up.
Last Spring, upon hearing about the inflammatory picketers of Fred Phelp’s Westboro Baptist Church coming to Richmond, these four moms hopped on Twitter and Facebook to start looking for a solution. That solution came in the form of a city-wide fundraiser that would raise over $14,000 for gay and Jewish causes – the groups that WBC were protesting against.
And they topped it off with a thank you note to Phelps.
The ladies behind Pennies In Protest are GayRVA’s 2010 Out.Spoken. Richmonder of the Year.
In contemplating a response to WBC’s presence, Heifetz spoke to her friend David Gerson in New York. Gerson’s local gay synagogue coordinated a successful fundraiser in response to a previous WBC visit.
Inspired by the idea, Short sent out a press release to alert the media, and the ladies utilized social media to garner support. After a few days, the group’s Facebook page gained 3,000 fans that would help Pennies In Protest exceed its goal of $10,000.
“There were people who would not normally give money to Jews or to gays that were rallied by the idea of this much venom and counteracting that,” Short says.
Salgado used her blog, Kindness Girl, to lend a voice to the cause.
Through Kindness Girl, Salgado chronicles her adventures in what she calls “Guerrilla Goodness” – from leaving Starbucks cards all over Carytown to writing inspiring messages in sidewalk chalk to students across the city on their first day of school.
When WBC came to Richmond, she questioned if kindness fit.
“I was afraid that kindness wasn’t big enough,” Salgado says. “That really scared me because up until this point, I had no doubt.”
Originally she considered showing kindness to the protesters, but realized they probably would not be receptive. After an e-mail chain with her friends, she began to see this as an opportunity to turn the protest on the side and wanted to see how it would play out.
“I got a huge lesson, not only did Richmond step up, but it showed me how big and how broad and how much deeper kindness could be than I even knew,” she says.
Since Pennies In Protest, Salgado has started to dream bigger.
“We have so many divides in our city,” she says. “When we came together in such a big way, I started to dream that maybe that Richmond could be known as a city of kindness.”
Cities like Denver, Co. have used the fundraiser to counteract their own WBC’s visits, so what’s next for the Pennies In Protest legacy?
According to Allen-Short, who still receives e-mails from other cities requesting information, it’s time to move on.
“We love the idea, but this is not our cause to take forward into the world following Westboro Baptist Church.”
As a solution, web-development firm Corgi Bytes has donated their services to build an online home for Pennies In Protest website. The site will include a how-to toolkit with sample press releases, e-mails, media lists, and step-by-step instructions for other cities to setup similar fundraisers.
“Once that is live, it’s going to belong to the world and anyone can do a Pennies In Protest,” Allen-Short says.
The Ladies Behind Pennies In Protest
“We’re always trying to do better things in the world and this was just a no-brainer. It seemed like the only thing that’s not complicated. It’s not political, but I think that’s what was cool about it.”
“When you ignore a bully, you are giving passive approval of what they’re doing. You are contributing to the negative energy they are putting out into the world to get bigger. You’ve sent a message that it’s okay to treat people with a lack of respect. So when you stand up for someone whether it’s your child or your sister or somebody that you don’t even know.”
“We felt very strongly that we couldn’t just stand by and have this occur without doing something about it. It turned out more beautiful than any of us ever expected. That just shows you the magic of what happens with love, with kindness, with positive energy. Love is more powerful than hatred. This is a prime example.”
“We have so many divides in our city. When we came together in such a big way, I started to dream that maybe Richmond could be known as a city of kindness.”
Join the ladies behind Pennies In Protest as they are recognized during GayRVA’s Birthday Celebration at New York Deli on Thursday, June 10. The party opens to the general public at 9 p.m. with a brief presentation at 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit GayRVA.com/birthday.
With this inaugural award, GayRVA proudly recognizes one individual or group that makes a newsworthy impact to move Richmond forward over the past year. The recipient of the award is in line with GayRVA’s core values of being inclusive and supportive not only to the LGBT community, but Richmond as a whole.
Read GAYRVA.COM’s new print guide online.October 16, 2012
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