Why I Give: Alyson Stoner

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used to live around the block from the Center, passing it every day on my commute. My former partner and I had a ritual of redistributing our unused clothes and household items to new peo- ple and places, and we decided to make this our top spot for donations. We did it anonymously, yet frequently enough to learn several Center employees by name.

When my publicist told me about a few special events taking place, I decided to be visible and vocal about my support.

As I learn more about the team and various programs, I remain in awe of what the Center provides for the community. It not only saves lives but also empowers and uplifts humans in such dignifying and practical ways.

I remember taking a tour of the former Youth Center located on Highland Avenue and seeing a music recording studio being built and furnished. As someone from the artistic and creative arenas, my heart soared at the thought of young people tapping into their musical talents and dreams. Dreams that are so valid and important, yet very complex to pursue. To all the struggling young artists reading this: focus first on building a strong foundation with yourself—mind, body, being—and bringing stability to your life. This process toward self-empowerment will enable you to consciously choose the greatest path for expressing yourself and pursuing a career.

Helping people achieve stability is one of the Center’s greatest strengths, from emergency housing and food distribution to mental health services and access to basic necessities. And still, there’s so much more! Around the hallway from the former Youth Center’s recording studio, I saw this gigantic wardrobe closet in which the youth could find a fresh set of clothes so they felt confident when going to a job interview. I love that the Center helps youth overcome any barriers they may face to gain employment, to get a fair shake, to get through another day.

Each person’s journey is distinct with its own challenges and victories. For me, coming out as pansexual in 2018 led to some colleagues in entertainment and people in my community saying that I was no longer safe or fit to join projects and gatherings. It was a small, but stinging, glimpse into the psychological and mate- rial impacts of homophobia and discrimination that queer folks face. The reality is all lives should be celebrated, and your worth is never up for question. Ever.

Later that same year, I taught a workshop on facing fear at the Center’s annual Models of Pride youth conference. I was so impressed by the young participants’ openness to be introspective and vulnerable about their mental and emotional well-being. I instantly knew that I’d found my people. The Center is a community that understands and affirms the authentic me, and it’s a community I’m so proud to support.

Shine on!

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