Lesbian fund seeks to build assets, grow community

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Two of the “foremothers” of the Lesbian Fund, India McCanse and Fai De Mark, at the group’s PrideFest booth in 2012. -Photo: Courtesy the Lesbian Fund

It’s a tradition at PrideFest Milwaukee for the Lesbian Fund to take the community’s pulse with a question like, “What would you do if you had all the money in the world?”

A couple of years ago, one woman after another answered that she’d invest in building and strengthening the community.

And that’s exactly the goal of the Lesbian Fund, but without all the money in the world.

A group of women established the fund in 2006 as a community resource built and advised by lesbians. Donations are used for direct grants to programs that benefit lesbians and support lesbian leadership, as well as to grow the fund’s investment assets.

“We’ve been doing very worthwhile work,” said Leslie Salas, co-chair of the fund steering committee, which meets monthly. Other members include Chris Doerfler, Ann Ellingboe, Velvet Moore, Kathy Prodoehl, Eren Turk and co-chair Dalila Cardona.

Salas joined in early 2012, impressed with the mission and the uniqueness of the fund, one of several under the umbrella of the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee. “I’ve been doing my research and I cannot find another lesbian fund in the nation,” Salas said.

Since 2009, the fund has awarded more than $55,000 for a number of efforts, including, most recently:

• The Grow Great Women program at Diverse & Resilient.

• Fair Wisconsin’s annual conference.

• The employment of a school nurse at the Alliance School, the year-round Milwaukee Public school established to provide a “safe place for students regardless of sexuality, identity, appearance, ability or beliefs.”

“We really value our partnership with the Alliance School,” Salas said. On Nov. 3, the LF partners Alliance on a drag extravaganza to raise money for the school and the fund. A Night to Remember: A Night to Celebrate Diversity begins at 8 p.m. at Montage Lounge, 801 S. Second St., Milwaukee. The lineup includes DJ Kelly and some of the state’s most popular drag performers. “We have some fabulous queens and we promise off-the-charts fierceness,” Salas said. 

Ahead on the calendar is a town meeting. Also, in early 2014, the fund plans to issue grants. The group fell short in 2013 and postponed the grant cycle until early next year to focus more time on fundraising. “We really need the community to come out and support us at this critical time,” Salas said.

Make a date

The Lesbian Fund and the Alliance School in Milwaukee are the beneficiaries of A Night to Remember: A Night to Celebrate Diversity at 8 p.m. on Nov. 3 at Montage Lounge, 801 S. Second St. Admission to the drag extravaganza is $15 per person or $75 per table. For more, call 414-277-8092.

On the Web

For more on the Lesbian Fund and the Women’s Fund of Greater Milwaukee, go to www.womensfundmke.org. To connect, look for The Lesbian Fund on Facebook.