By Dakota Parks for Inweekly
“Good and gay” is at the heart of what Sunday’s Child does. Since 2013, this philanthropic LGBTQ-focused nonprofit has been striving to make the Gulf Coast not just a better place for the queer community but a more inclusive, accepting and empathetic community for all. The original founders set out to promote wider visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community—to show the Pensacola Bay Area that “gay is good”—by setting a philanthropic example.
This impact can now be seen across the entire community, from funding film equipment at the Stamped LGBTQ+ Film Festival and an X-ray machine at the Pensacola Humane Society to furnishing the recently opened Ella L Jordan African American History Museum and helping Gulf Coast Kid’s House fund customized training modules for working with LGBTQ+ victims of abuse. Since its inception, Sunday’s Child has awarded more than $764,000 to local charities in the Pensacola Bay Area that place a value on diversity, inclusion and equality.
“I want people to know there is an accepting community in Pensacola—not just our community itself but also our members of Sunday’s Child. We are an accepting group of allies and members of the LGBTQ+ community who are trying to make a difference here on the Gulf Coast,” Sunday’s Child President Jacey Cosentino said. “Our mission is to educate the community and serve as a pillar in the LGBTQ+ community to teach others about diversity and inclusion and how that can be translated into our day-to-day lives—in our workplaces, our homes or traveling—to ultimately create a more inclusive environment within our community and beyond.”
While not all the grants that Sunday’s Child awards have a direct tie to the LGBTQ+ community, each organization that receives funding is dedicated to diversity and inclusion within their organization and beyond. In addition to funding LGBTQ-specific grants, Sunday’s Child has provided funding to a myriad of organizations dedicated to curbing food insecurity, closing education gaps, serving vulnerable populations, protecting wildlife and endangered animals, and influencing cultural change through the power of art. Many organizations have also been influenced by Sunday’s Child to reexamine diversity within their own organization.
“It’s easy to say you’re inclusive, but the hard part is actually implementing a strategy and a mindset of equality in all aspects of your life,” Cosentino said. “We’ve had organizations implement gender-neutral bathrooms, introduce better health care options for transgender employees, enact non-discrimination policies and even reexamine their bylaws after working with Sunday’s Child and learning about the work that we do. That’s why I think empathy and diversity training is so important. We are currently working on furthering the education of our board and building workshops for businesses and nonprofits to learn about creating intentionally inclusive environments.”
Part of this current community outreach effort also includes membership and ensuring that anyone who wants to join Sunday’s Child is able to— regardless of income.
To fund the $25K-$50K grants that Sunday’s Child awards each year, members pay annual membership dues that are pooled together and used to fund grants. Every dollar down to the last penny from annual membership is used to fund grants that promote diversity and inclusion. Individuals can pledge $1,000 to join, duos can pledge $500 a piece to become a member and trios can pledge $333. Sunday’s Child also has a scholarship option that is volunteer and need-based for college students, young professionals and potential members who cannot afford dues. Now, there is also an introductory level membership for $100 a year that opens the door even further for new members to join.
“As a scholarship recipient myself for several years, I was able to make a positive impact on this community while many of my peers wouldn’t join citing financial reasons,” Hane McLeaish, a nonbinary musician and Sunday’s Child board member, explained. “The voices of our membership bring diversity from inside our organization to a community of service. It felt imperative for me to work on this initiative in order to increase access for those that want to help shape a more inclusive Pensacola. Our community is made up of a beautiful variety of humans, and there is so much love to share through the work of Sunday’s Child. Now anyone can help make our community more diverse, accepting and inclusive through our new $100 introductory membership option.”
Sunday’s Child is currently accepting new members for 2023, and the membership cycle closes on Dec. 31, 2022.
If you are interested in learning more about Sunday’s Child or becoming a member, there are four events left this year—a Halloween costume party hosted by Denise & Nichole Lippy with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and live music by Brynne & Bones; an educational workshop on the coming out journey and supporting LGBTQ+ youth led by Dr. Lisa B Schwartz, a sexuality educator and psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience; the annual Big Mixer outside the Studer Community Institute; and an exclusive film screening of the local documentary “Someone Waits For Me,” directed by the Council on Aging of West Florida. This short documentary follows the experiences of five elderly LGBTQ+ residents of the Gulf Coast and was funded by a Sunday’s Child grant.
“Sunday’s Child not only highlights the strengths of the LGBTQ+ community locally but also the heart of what it means to be a compassionate human through philanthropy, education and service. If that is something you are interested in doing, we have plenty of ways for you to help,” McLeaish said.
Upcoming Sunday’s Child Events DETAILS: sundayschild.org or facebook.com/sundayschildpensacola •HALLOWEEN COSTUME MIXER WHEN: 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 30
•“UNDERSTANDING THE COMING OUT JOURNEY” WORKSHOP WHEN: 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 2 WHERE: Voices of Pensacola, 117 E. Government St.
•BIG MIXER WHEN: 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 17 WHERE: Studer Community Institute, 220 W. Garden St.
•“SOMEONE WAITS FOR ME” FILM SCREENING WHEN: 6 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1 WHERE: Hellcat Hangar, 1008 N. Navy Blvd.