A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Love Must Win, GLAST among those doing ‘one-stop shop’ for giving back on MLK: A Day of Giving Back

By Ryan Clark
NKyTribune reporter

Ryan Joseph Allen grew up knowing he was somehow different.

And when it became clear just how he was different, he also realized he had very few people to rely on and talk with. He questioned his sexual identity, and his life spiraled out of control. He used drugs and alcohol to cope. He developed an anxiety disorder and almost flunked out of college.

Along the way, he fathered a daughter, and he began thinking about the world through her eyes. What if she dealt with similar questions? What is she also felt alone?

Three years ago, Allen helped answer that question. He started Love Must Win, a nonprofit organization that sponsors a monthly meeting called Safe Haven, which is open to all teens and adults who need a place to share their stories. Still, Allen never would have thought the organization he founded would turn into this.

Ryan Joseph Allen

On Monday – Martin Luther King Jr. Day – Love Must Win will, for the second consecutive year, be one of several area organizations participating in MLK Day: A Day of Giving Back – a “one-stop shop” for giving back to the local community, from 6-8 p.m., Jan. 15 at the Boone County Library’s Meeting Room A in Burlington.

“Not only are you able to give back to our community – to our brothers and sisters living on the streets and those in recovery from drug and alcohol abuse, to spreading loving and encouraging messages to those who have survived sexual and domestic violence and those of the Vegas tragedy – but, we also get to teach our children that giving back starts with them,” said Allen, a 28-year-old Erlanger resident. “If we can teach kids the simple concept of kindness the whole world receives that gift.”

Those attending Monday will be able to participate in a variety of activities:

 Make HopeNotes for survivors of domestic and sexual violence

 Make Blessing Bags (containing snacks and bottled water)for local homeless youth and adults

 Drop off clothing and send messages to those recovering from addiction

 Free food, drinks and hugs will be provided

The event was created last year as a partnership between the local women’s crisis center and Love Must Win and was held in Covington.

“It’s a one-stop shop service event where you can choose to help different non-profit groups in the area,” Allen said. “You can help one or assist each group with an activity that will benefit our community.”

Martin Warne, co-founder and president of the Covington-based GLAST – Gays and Lesbians Achieving Sobriety Together – says the group helps by providing basic needs for sober living, like clothing, toiletry items, furniture and bedding.

“One of the reasons we want to participate, if you take a look at our mission statement, it says ‘By working in collaboration with community leaders’ we can help those overcome addiction,” Warne said. “That’s one of the beautiful things – we have a vibrant LGBTQ community and most of the time, people are willing to come together.”

Other organizations present include A Voice for the Innocent, which collects notes for survivors of sexual and domestic violence, and the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition, which will be giving out, among other things, free hugs.

“We always try to do things for the entire community,” said Shelly Snyder, a board member for Love Must Win and founder of the Ohio River Valley Pride Coalition.

“Many homeless victims are members of the LGBTQ community, because they are left by their family, peers and community. I’ve had homeless transgender people sleep on my couch numerous times. It’s a very sad situation. They’re kicked out for being just who they are.”

Snyder says those who come to the event will be able to get help from a variety of sources.

“In this particular political climate, we’re seeing the worst in a lot of people,” Snyder said. “Our job is to show them the best. We certainly hope we get a good turnout, but if we don’t get them to come to us, we’ll go to them.”

Allen knows if this kind of entity existed when he was growing up, his adolescence would have been much easier to handle.

“We really want to help create ripples of kindness, hope, and love,” he said. “Ripples that carry over into all areas of the participants’ lives. Ripples that let others know that they are not alone. As many have said, ‘For it is in giving, that we receive.’”

For more information, visit: LoveMustWin.org and Glast.org.

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