Hear more about this story at 10 a.m. today on the Pittsburgh Current Podcast on our Facebook page
By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
This time of year is usually busy for Garden of Peace founder Michael David Battle.
On Dec. 23, the organization, which helps “empower and elevate” black queer and trans youth, is holding its annual holiday meal. The group runs numerous programs throughout the year and for this event, they provide dinner and a holiday gift to those who take part in Garden of Peace projects throughout the year, many of whom are homeless or housing insecure. According to a 2017 University of Chicago study, LGBTQ youths are 120 percent more likely to be homeless. And 72 percent of all black queer and trans youth fall into those categories.
That’s why Battle says this party is so important. These youth (and the group serves individuals up to age 29) are often isolated and alone, especially at the holidays. And, the event is a huge undertaking. In addition to planning the meal, every day until the event is spent fundraising. But that’s not the case this year.
“This year we are spending our time planning this party instead of worrying about how we are going to pay for it,” Battle says. “A lot of times we’re robbing from Peter to pay Paul, but thanks to the generous donation we received, we don’t have to.”
That gift came from F. Dok Harris, the self-described lawyer and donut salesman (at Super Bakery) and son of Steelers legend Franco Harris. Harris was approached for a donation, with the hope that he would donate enough to buy one or two of the gifts. But instead, he offered to pay for the whole thing. And Garden of Peace isn’t the only LGBTQ organization that received help. The Persad Center held it’s holiday event on Dec. 11 and was still fundraising last week, said Persad’s Jennifer Yoder.
For the Persad program, LGBTQ youth who use their services (a drop-in center where the person can take a shower, do laundry and get food and hygiene products, are allowed to write down a gift they want for the holidays up to $25. A donor is then asked to give enough to fulfill the wish.
“When Dok heard we were still seeking donations, he reached out and covered every last youth, and we are so grateful,” Yoder says. “We’re looking forward to hosting him in the new year to show him around our programming space and introduce him to the service providers and some of the youth he impacted.”
To hear about why Harris stepped up for these organizations, listen at 10 a.m. today to the live feed of the Pittsburgh Current podcast where Harris will be the guest.