Honoring our Volunteers

Every August, after the massive Pride celebration, we throw a party for the people who make Pride week and our year-round programs possible – our volunteers. We’ve seen incredible growth in the last couple of years and in 2019 nearly 800 Pride Family volunteers came out for the annual Volunteer Appreciation Picnic. While relatively large, the event always feels like a family picnic. Community volunteers bring their family members to enjoy music, children’s games, goodie bags, door prizes, speakers, awards, and, of course, my dad cooking on the grill. 

While we couldn’t all be together this year we did still have that inspiring year-round volunteer leadership power that makes Pride possible and recognize those leaders with our Volunteer of the Year Awards. This year’s honorees are:

Mark Maddox, who just had his 6th San Diego Pride, normally serves as our Parade co-manager and stepped up as a lead this year with our new Pride Ambassador program, where he recruited and trained volunteers to phone bank and engage in peer-to-peer fundraising to ensure our programs had the financial support to continue through COVID-19.

The Tomsha Family was recognized as a group! They come as a set and are inspiring to see as they help year-round with nearly every program they can. From distributing water during BLM marches, writing notes of encouragement to LGBTQ industry workers, distributing lunches to remote volunteers during Pride Live and so much more.

Queer Black woman and business owner Yinka Freeman donated her time and expertise to oversee the logistics of our CAPI conference (before the outbreak) that hosted 276 people from over 45 cities and 3 different countries. For Pride Live she sourced our Pride Goodie Bags and Pride Party Packs and participated as a panelist in several of our live streaming events.

Starting at the age of 14 through an internship in collaboration with the Met High School, Maya Tamir has truly become an inspiring young leader within Pride over the last 3 years. Through our youth programs, Maya serves as an ambassador where they help to ensure LGBTQ youth stay connected to each other, even now virtually. This year they even took on an additional leadership role with the She Fest planning committee. 

On top of overseeing the social media and marketing for She Fest year-round and significantly growing the social media reach of She Fest, Liana Gross Furini was part of the technical team of She Fest Virtual allowing over 16,000 people to connect to community online. We couldn’t have done it without her.

Melissa Kelley Colibrí leads Pride’s accessibility department. Under Melissa’s leadership, the accessibility team pivoted quickly to ensure our online events were as accessible as possible including ASL interpreters and post-event transcripts. Melissa and their team also oversaw the accessibility for all of the Creating Change conference, as well as led a workshop on the subject at the annual conference that brings in 4-5,000 LGBTQ activists every year.

Our inaugural Volunteer Community Partner of the Year is Options for All. The organization creates unique programs that give individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities more options for living their lives to the fullest. Their film and media studios program was a perfect fit for all we had to accomplish this year as they were able to step in and support our efforts by editing nearly 100 videos from community members and partners to be included in our Pride Live event.

These are just some of the inspiring stories from our team of over 80 non-profit community partners and 150 volunteer leaders who would normally oversee 6,000 volunteers and 350,000 people in person. This was my tenth Pride on staff and every year I’m blown away by our community’s tenacity, creativity, and drive. If you happen to know any of these folks or any of our volunteers, please thank them. Somehow we’re making it through this year together, and Together We Rise.

With Pride,

Fernando Zweifach López
Pronouns: They/Them/Theirs
Executive Director
San Diego Pride

P.S. If you would like to become a part of the Pride Family, please register as a volunteer to be the first to find out about volunteer and leadership opportunities.


About Fernando

Fernando Lopez was the Executive Director of San Diego Pride. Lopez’s years of LGBT advocacy, nonprofit management, public education, diversity consulting, media relations, guest lectures, and organizing have made them a consistent presence ensuring the struggles of the LGBT community are ever visible.