KALAMAZOO – Tammy Collins and Amy Perricone have seen first-hand the impact of supporting LGBT and questioning youth. Even though they have experienced some challenges being a lesbian couple in a small community, the idea that their involvement could make a difference didn’t really hit home until controversy struck in their own town.
It was about 5 years ago that a student was being singled out by an administrator for holding hands with her girlfriend in the halls of Otsego High School. Seeing the double-standard between gay and straight couples, an ally student attending the school came to Collins for her help. Collins designed t-shirts that said “Support Love” and the student sold them to fifty other students, making a statement by wearing them every Tuesday for the rest of the school year.
That’s when the women realized the impact support can have. They journeyed 10 miles south to the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center and learned about the programs, services and support groups that are available to both youth and adults. Both women began volunteering with the youth group.
“The youth come in and it’s a safe place to talk. They get picked on throughout the week, but they know they can come here. It’s so important to them,” Collins said.
Their love and commitment has grown continuously since then. Collins is the owner of Evolve Visual Design, a graphic design firm with a wide range of impressive clientele including international corporate clients. But for the KGLRC, Collins works for free, donating countless hours on the design of their marketing materials. Collins and Perricone have both sat in on the steering committee for Kalamazoo Pride for the past two years, during which time Collins has designed the new logo, merchandise and all print-related marketing materials.
“I love the creative freedom with KGLRC, and it’s rewarding to use my skills to advance something I believe in,” she said.
In fact, Collins and Perricone believe in KGLRC so much, they decided to “take it to the next level” and join the board of directors of the organization.
“Tammy and Amy’s impact has been felt through every layer of this organization. It is because of their commitment to KGLRC’s mission and vision that this organization can continue to make Kalamazoo a place where the promise of equality lives. I am truly thankful for everything they do out of the kindness of their heart,” said KGLRC Executive Director Zach Bauer.
Evolve Visual Design was honored with the Retail Award at the KGLRC’s Winter Gala awards ceremony last year, with community leaders noting not only their work with the center, but with other organizations such as Equality Michigan, Arcus Foundation and KAFE.