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For those who are wondering what it’s like to volunteer, Lawrence Pennymon says, “It’s beautiful work.”
Since 2008, he has been dedicating his time, talents and energy to make a difference at LGBT Detroit.
“I have always been a giving person. I was raised by my parents to give,” says Pennymon, who felt like he needed to give back to his community after recovering from an illness. He met Curtis Lipscomb, executive director of LGBT Detroit, while in the hospital.
“He told me about KICK (in 2015, KICK became LGBT Detroit) and what they do,” he says. “I realized it was time for me to give back.”
The 43-year-old who is on disability has been traveling from Waterford to Detroit each day for six-hour shifts. Pennymon helps with general office duties at the #SafeBraveSpace acquired by LGBT Detroit in 2016 in Detroit’s northwest business and residential neighborhood, Murray Hill.
“We’re all here to help each other and support one another,” says the former Detroit Medical Center employee. “Helping out is the best feeling in the whole wide world. It’s not about what you’re going to get in return. It’s not about money. It’s about giving of your time. You never know when you’re going to need that kind of support in return.”
Pennymon’s favorite volunteer service is planning for Hotter Than July. The week-long black LGBT Pride celebration hosted by LGBT Detroit has been held annually in Detroit since 1996.
In 2015, Pennymon earned the responsibility of coordinating the candlelight vigil during HTJ’s opening ceremony for which he received recognition from members of the community.
“When people tell you they are so proud of you and the way you give of yourself, that feels good,” he says, adding that he enjoys meeting new people and helping to lift their spirits. “I get a lot of love and support. Knowing that I’m truly wanted brings joy to my heart.”
Pennymon pays it forward by encouraging young people to rise up and take on volunteer roles. If that means providing a ride to and from the office, for example, he is willing to drive.
“We’re one big family. We will help you out,” he says. Having a mentor was a big part of Pennymon’s growth.
“I had issues with my sexuality, but Curtis spoke with me and I felt comfortable here. I am a proud, gay, Black man,” he says. “I believe in LGBT Detroit. This is something we definitely need in Detroit.”
When asked what traits a good volunteer should possess, Pennymon says, “Be a friendly person people can talk to, have patience, be easy going, have the motivation to do this and don’t take things personal. Things happen. Brush it off and keep going.”
The most important thing Pennymon takes away from his volunteer experience, and still finds relevant today, is his constant desire to do more and learn more, for himself and for members of the community.
He said, “I love to give and be there for people. I thank LGBT Detroit for the opportunity to do that.”
Join LGBT Detroit’s #GivingTuesday event on Nov. 28 on the organization’s Facebook page http://gaybe.am/Kb. #GivingTuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. This #GivingTuesday will help support the LGBT Detroit Leadership Academy, which has graduated 58 young adults since 2012. Visit www.lgbtdetroit.org/donate for more information.