Student helps to make place for LGBTQ youth and self through volunteer work
December 19, 2016
“Lora’s strongest assets are her openness, creativity, willingness to learn and lead others,” explained LGBT Center of Raleigh Assistant Director Kelly Taylor. “She makes everyone who comes to the Center feel welcome.”
Ms. Taylor is the supervisor to Online Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program student Lora Pilcher, who celebrated her first year’s anniversary of volunteering at the Center in November. Lora has several reasons for volunteering at the Center, but a primary one was to help LGBTQ teens.
“I had previous experience in the mental health field where I witnessed teenagers’ sexuality still being treated as more of a symptom or as ‘attention seeking’ behavior than it is a part of their identity. This was especially true for young females. I want to be part of the change and this starts with being able to fully understand the wants and needs of the target population I wish to serve.”
Lora wears several hats in her capacity as a volunteer, including as administrative assistant, housekeeper, events planner and tour guide, among many others. All of her efforts are needed at the Center, which has as part of its mission the goal to identify needs and advocate for resources benefiting the population of lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people and their supporters within and beyond central North Carolina.
Lora doesn’t mind the work and feels as if she’s thriving both professionally and personally by volunteering at the Center. “The Center has become a second home and family to me. I look forward to spending my time there and know that I can be my authentic self when I am there. It is refreshing to know the Center is a safe space where I can be myself and not be judged. Everyone is so loving and caring.”
As her goal is to work with LGBTQ children and teens after she graduates in 2018, Lora feels that volunteering at the Center helps her professionally as well, particularly as it applies to helping build multicultural competency. She has had the opportunity to work with leadership and has participated in seemingly every aspect of the Center’s work, including serving on the safety planning committee after the Pulse Night Club shooting in Orlando.
“After the shooting I was asked to join the safety planning committee that helped to develop new safety procedures and training for the Center. Myself and another volunteer who works part time as a police officer volunteered to come up with a program based on our professional training to help volunteers be prepared in emergencies and be able to deescalate situations if possible should they arise.”
As of now Lora’s and her colleague’s idea is still just that and the Center has not moved forward with it. As she explains, “Right now the focus has been on making the space itself more secure. Meetings have been centered around suggestions on security issues and resolutions.”
Lora is clearly an asset to the organization and loves her work, as is evidenced by her drive and commitment to the Center. According to Ms. Taylor, volunteers are relied on to staff the Center. She describes Lora as a hard worker, someone who problem solves effectively and one of her best trainers for new volunteers. “Lora
was one of our lead volunteers for Out! Raleigh, which is our annual street festival. We pick our best volunteers to do this. It involves being in
charge of other volunteers and making sure they have what they need.”
While Ms. Taylor has seen the impact Lora has had on the Center, in the year that she’s known her, she has also seen how the Center has benefitted Lora. She explained that Lora had moved to the Raleigh area without knowing anyone and that the Center has helped her make social connections and has given her an outlet for her creativity.
Lora doesn’t seem to slow down and can take credit for helping to plan events and programs, helping visitors, working in the library and, ensuring that more multicultural LGBTQ literature was available in the library after a community member voiced concern that people of color were not clearly represented in the collection. The Center boasts the largest LGBTQ literature collection in the Southeast.
Even with all that she does, Lora, who was named April 2016 Volunteer of the Month and was considered for the Volunteer of the Year title, has plans to make her life even more productive.
“I hope this year I can help Nick, the youth program leader with ASPYRE, which is leadership camp for LGBTQ youth, and I recently spoke with a board member from Sandhills Pride, a local LGBT organization in my area – Pinehurst, NC. They do not have a center but support youth programs within the schools. I am hoping to meet with the program leader from Sandhills Pride and in the future build a partnership working with youth in my area here in Pinehurst and at the LGBT Center of Raleigh.”
Pictured above left: Lora Pilcher. Pictured above right, from l to r: Center Director James Miller, Lora Pilcher and Kelly Taylor.