|Midwest LGBT Advocacy|
|PFLAG Cedar Rapids|
There are many organizations in the Midwest that work hard as LGBT advocates and this month we spoke with First Friday Breakfast Club and Cedar Rapids PFLAG. The two organizations talk about their history, mission, and how they have made an impact. First Friday Breakfast Club is based in Des Moines, Iowa and Cedar Rapids PFLAG is based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa but both organizations attract followers from throughout the state.
First Friday Breakfast Club, Inc.
Jonathan Wilson of First Friday Breakfast Club, Inc. spoke with me about his organization’s history, core values, and other individuals who have stood out for their advocacy work.
Give me a short history about your organization and tell me about your mission.
The First Friday Breakfast Club, Inc. was formed in 1996. It’s a 501(c)(3) entity, an association of gay and bisexual men, and the largest breakfast club in the state of Iowa. In addition to monthly meetings for mutual support, networking, and learning from distinguished speakers, FFBC gives scholarships to Iowa high school students who have done notable things to reduce homophobia and educate on LGBT issues in their schools and communities. As of this year it will have awarded more than $150,000 in scholarships. Scholarships are awarded regardless of gender, gender orientation, or gender identity. It also publishes a monthly newsletter of articles written by members.
It central mission is education, particularly (but not exclusively) relating to LGBT issues.
How has your organization changed over the years?
Its mission and core values have remained consistent since its inception. The notable changes have been in the lives that FFBC has touched and influenced. It has been particularly meaningful in helping men with the changes that come with coming out in more and more aspects of their lives. Over time it has come to be seen as an important interface between the larger community and the gay community primarily in central Iowa.
How has your organization made the most impact?
FFBC has had a profound impact in three ways: First, it creates a uniquely supportive environment for gay and bisexual men to learn about themselves and current issues on a wide range of topics. Second, it serves to educate our special guest speakers who have typically never witnessed so many unapologetic, well-adjusted gay and bisexual men in one place, in broad daylight, and without smoking or alcohol around. Third, when our members go to Iowa high school graduations to present our scholarships, they often do so before audiences who ignorantly think they’ve never before see a gay person in real life.
Has there been one individual in your organization that has stood out in their advocacy work?
Many hands have made light work in keeping the organization vibrant, fiscally sound, and always growing. Of particular note is perhaps the contribution of Iowa Senator Matt McCoy who is openly gay, a member of FFBC, and a re-elected member of the Iowa Senate. Such role models serve to educate, without even trying.
Share with us a memorable experience during your years in this organization.
One year we had the distinction of being protested by “Rev.” Fred Phelps of “God Hates Fags” fame. We initiated a fundraiser called Phelps Helps because taking the P out of Phelps, Helps. With this initiative, enlightened people in our community pledged varying amounts of money for every minute Phelps protested. That approach celebrated the exercise of his First Amendment rights and raised more than $20,000 for FFBC scholarships. On the day of our meeting that year our members and guests were safe and warm inside at Hoyt Sherman Place, while a gentle cold rain fell on Phelps and his protesting ilk. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
For more information go to FFBCIowa.org.