Standing Proud: Area Foundation Support Strengthens Local LGBTQI+ Community

By Kiko Martinez

SAN ANTONIO – Ellen White was 60 when she first came out as a transgender woman four years ago. 

She turned to The Pride Center San Antonio for help on her journey. The Pride Center is an organization whose mission is to empower the local LGBTQI+ community through health, wellness, education, advocacy and other support services.

At The Pride Center, White was able to work through some of the emotional issues she was going through after finally doing what she always wanted and becoming her true self.

“I had a lot of questions about myself, and I wanted to talk to other transgender people about how I was feeling,” White shared. “Growing up, I was ridiculed and bullied and treated badly in school. The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do is be authentic about who I am.”

Robert Salcido, Jr., Executive Director of The Pride Center – a grantee of the San Antonio Area Foundation – said that, historically, LGBTQI+ nonprofits have not really been connected to mainstream organizations that could assist them in funding projects and services. Salcido decided to change that when he became Pride’s executive director in 2015.

“One of the goals that I had was to build relationships across our community and across our city, so that The Pride Center could grow and so there could be a greater awareness of who we are and the services we offer,” he said.

The Pride Center applied for and received its first grant with the Area Foundation during the pandemic. This is the third year the two organizations have worked together to provide resources in South Texas to people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions.

“San Antonio deserves a strong hub of services and programs for people and families in our LGBTQI+ communities,” said Patricia Mejia, Vice President for Community Engagement and Impact at the Area Foundation. “We’re happy to see the growth of The Pride Center, whose work is in alignment with our vision for a city where everyone can see their stories reflected and enjoy equitable access to resources.”

Salcido said the Area Foundation’s support has benefited his organization the most by boosting case management services, which are designed to help members of the LGBTQI+ community and their families with everything from individual mental health programs to group therapy – free of charge.

“The grants have really helped the most marginalized and most vulnerable people in our community,” Salcido said. “The Area Foundation allowed us to continue and build on the number of folks we were able to impact.”

Without the services and the resources provided by The Pride Center, White isn’t sure where she would’ve turned to for help and where she would be today.

“It’s really difficult to hide who you are because it manifests in every aspect of your life,” White said. “I didn’t want to feel shameful anymore about being female. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. Being transgender is the best part of me.”

The Pride Center joins other local nonprofits in celebrating Pride Month during June 2022. Go here for a comprehensive list of events and activities.

The Area Foundation awarded nearly $72 million to dozens of local nonprofits and approximately $5 million in college scholarships at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Our philanthropic work would not be possible if not for the altruistic support of our many contributors and donors. 

If you or someone you know would be interested in donating or perhaps starting your own philanthropic fund, please click here for more information and don’t hesitate to reach out to us to start a conversation.

Francisco “Kiko” Martinez is a member of the San Antonio Area Foundation Marketing and Communications Department’s Storytelling Ambassador contributor network.