For Don Poppe, a longtime volunteer at the San Diego LGBT Community Center, the choice to offer his services to the Center is born out of a desire to offer his personal thanks for services he himself had received.
"I moved to San Diego in 1997 while dealing with treatment for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, as well as being HIV-positive," he recounts. "I only knew one other person in San Diego and realized I needed some help dealing with life."
After being referred to The Center by an acquaintance, Poppe began counseling and joined the HIV support group.
"I found these to be very helpful to me" he says, "and eventually discovered that I could give back to The Center and to the community by giving some of my time as a volunteer. The participation has given me a sense of being part of the community here in San Diego and has also given me purpose in my retirement as well as a great sense of self-worth when I am able to direct or help those who come into The Center looking for the kind of help I needed all those years ago."
Now, 40 years later, The Center is preparing to celebrate its ruby anniversary with a gala event featuring a three-course gourmet dinner, a lively silent auction and plenty of dancing and drinking meant to reflect on four decades of success, struggles and, most importantly according to recent volunteer Mike Carter, community.
Stories such as these are common for volunteers at The Center, which has grown from being a single answering machine set up in a utility closet four decades ago to the thriving community center that provides more than 50,000 services per year to members of San Diego’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.