Actress Michelle C. Bonilla grew up in Hollywood and was raised by a working mother. She often found herself in the position of being a latchkey kid and would go to Shakey’s Pizza on Santa Monica Boulevard to play video games after school. She fondly remembers a group of “beautiful, tall, gorgeous, friendly gals” with boas, incredible clothes, and fabulous make-up standing on the corner who would always look out for her.
“They told me to get home when it was getting dark and always watched out for me while I skateboarded my way home up the street,” Bonilla remembers. “Of course now I know they were either men in drag or transgender and working to make ends meet. They cared enough to make sure I was okay and I will never forget that.”
As an adult, Bonilla found that same feeling of community connection and support at the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
“The Center cares, much like ‘the gals’ did for me when I was little, for the under-protected in our community, all while uplifting the spirits of those they serve,” she says. “The Center is helping the community I grew up in with incredible passion, compassion, and direction.”
Bonilla, who has had recurring roles on ER and Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, met her partner at a Center event in 2003. As the couple got to know the Center better, their appreciation and respect for its work grew.
“When I took the tour of the Center and saw what it does for youth in Los Angeles, I was just floored and touched beyond belief,” she recalls. “I believe in the mission of the Center and what it does to help our community thrive.”
Her partner passed away more than two years ago, but recently, when it came time to give away her things, Bonilla donated her partner’s entire wardrobe to the Center’s Transgender Empowerment Project because “she was always willing to help those she could.”
Her partner’s passing also led Bonilla to realize the importance of leaving a gift to someone or something that means a lot to you, including an organization close to your heart. Now, Bonilla has joined the Center’s Circle of Life by including it in her estate plan.
“When it came time to put my own affairs in order, I absolutely wanted to name the Center as one of the beneficiaries,” she says. “This was something I had to do. It was the right thing to do and I feel great knowing I have done it. It’s up to us to keep the Center going. I have great confidence in the future of the Center and support for its vision.”