An Ohio LGBTQ Charity Have A Gay Day Is On A Mission To Change The World
Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Knote.
It’s an honor to speak with you today. Why don’t you give us some details about you and your story. How did you get to where you are today?
The journey of Have A Gay Day started with a young man by the name of Jamey Rodemeyer that took his life in Buffalo, New York at the age of 14 years old due to bullying. Michael Knote started a memorial page for him which turned into a Facebook page called Have A Gay Day. The Facebook page grew over the years and became a charity organization based in Dayton Ohio. Currently, there are 1.3 Million likes on their page and they are one of the largest LGBTQ Charity Facebook pages. Over the years they have done a lot for the community. Currently, they run a food pantry, pet food pantry, give away personal care items, and also give away seasonal items like heaters in the winter and rechargeable hand fans in the summer. They are currently all volunteers devoted to making a difference and filling the voids wherever they can find them. One example of filling the voids is seeing the needs of the community not being able to make it to their food pantry. So, they fundraised and purchased a delivery van this year. They have volunteers that drive through the community making food deliveries to those that can’t make it out to them. They have also placed second nationally two years in a row for Give Out Day, the National day of fundraising for the LGBTQ Community. Their greatest source of fundraising is by birthday fundraisers on Facebook.
I’m sure your success has not come easily. What challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
The organization has come through a lot, but we have met the challenges and overcome. When we started our journey we never imagined we would become a charity organization. We started in a 150 square foot location in the Key Bank Tower in Dayton, Ohio. The people that were leasing the space, Colliers asked the property management if we could take down the rainbow trees he had up in our location because they couldn’t lease the surrounding spaces. We ended up breaking the lease and moving when we realized that our rainbow trees were even a considered issue. The next space we moved to was about 1,200 square feet. The owners were great but a couple years into the lease they sold the property to an investment group out of Florida called GNP development. What happened next could be best described as a constructive eviction. The owner of the company Mark Gerenger created an LLC called the Dayton Development Partners. The doors of the location were screwed into the door frame when the new owner couldn’t find the key. There were calls to the Police when Have A Gay Day tested the air quality during the construction phases as the new owners found asbestos and didn’t make us aware. They even asked us to be arrested because we threated them by as they said, “They threatened to bring their lawyers.” We were forced out but we learned a lot.
Let’s talk about the work you do. What do you specialize in and why should someone work with you over the competition?
As a charity organization we focus on filling the voids of service. Yes, we are LGBTQ but we serve anyone and everyone that may be in need. We don’t ask who is a part of the community or not. We are working to do the good, make a difference, and create a lasting impression of kindness because humanity deserves spaces that don’t judge but just would rather help. We never imagine there to be as some would say duplication or competition. We will work with the community to make the largest impact that we can for those that are in need. We have had different programs through the years, from support meetings to work in the field of recovery. Our long term goals are to expand based on what the community needs and asks from us. We don’t own the good but we will do everything we can to make sure that we offer the good to all people. It’s up to them to use our services and charity all we can do is take space to be there without judgement. Some may think of us as a pantry, I think of us as community servants that come with rainbows and the magic of being there judgement free.
What’s your best piece of advice for readers who desire to find success in their life?
No matter what people say, no matter how people judge your steps in the long run you have to carve your own path. I think of the current location we are in. People told us not to move there and that the area was dangerous. The truth is a couple years ago there were tornadoes that ripped through the community. There were so many members of the community that lived in placed without access to the LGBTQ resources available. Moving to where we did wasn’t good for a lot of people but for the community that was there we stand in as a blessing. Sometimes the path isn’t easy and sometimes people might tell you that you’re not possible in what you do. I would say if you have a dream for a better tomorrow then don’t let your light dim to opinions and push forward and on.
Speaking of success, what does the word mean to you?
Success to me means making a difference. It means that people that have needs are getting those needs fulfilled and met. I think of the people that come into our location and share the stories of their families that couldn’t come out. I think of people being able to walk into our space and having the freedom to be them. I always imagine me not being here and the organization continues on work. Even if Have A Gay Day didn’t exist any more that some of the organizations and leaders in the future would look back at us and keep on working to change the world in dramatic fashion for the people that need it the most. That one life felt our difference, that one life was able to smile, have a meal, do a load of laundry. Success will be the legacy that we changed the world even if we never lived long enough to see it all. The little things add up and I’m just happy I lived to be a part of it.
What’s next for you?
We have a dream of buying land and building monolithic dome homes for emergency housing. We would also like to be able to hire our first employee. We hope in the future to duplicate everything that we are doing in Ohio and move into a national and international presence. We know that many see us as a community center because of how our structure works but we believe in time we will be able to reach out to the communities that we serve and will be a liaison for change for equality across the scope of good. We are also working on a book of shared LGBTQ stories and hope to release that in late 2022-2023. We don’t know where our path will go but as long as we are making a difference, we will follow that journey.
Finally, how can people connect with you if they want to learn more?
If people want to learn more about us they can visit our website www.haveagayday.org or our facebook page www.facebook.com/mygayday. If someone wants to donate they can always drop off donations at 1902 Needmore Road in Dayton Ohio. We have a free little pantry that is always in need of food in front of our location. We also have a lending library inside and are always in need of books too. I know moving into the additional space we are growing into we will be fundraising for a walk in fridge /freezer until and will also be looking for additional shelving. If someone wants to volunteer with us they can always look for us on Volunteer Match.