Four years ago, Angela Bailly was looking for a space of comfort, acceptance, a place where she could just be -- no questions asked. After separating from her husband of 15 years and coming out as a lesbian to friends and family, she discovered the Rainbow Resource Centre and has been volunteering there ever since.
"It was a time of significant life change," says Bailly, "The Rainbow Resource Centre was safe and comfortable. Everything at that time was an adjustment, and it was only natural for friends, family and co-workers to have questions. But at the Rainbow Resource Centre, they were so accepting, welcoming, no questions -- it was the first time in my life I felt accepted wholeheartedly. It is such a powerful place."
The Rainbow Resource Centre has been serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and two-spirit (GLBTT) communities for nearly 40 years. On Thursday, the organization will receive the Commitment to Manitoba Human Rights Award, an annual award given by the Canadian and Manitoba Human Rights Commissions and the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties to individuals and organizations who have promoted respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The organization provides an array of programs and services, including drop-in counselling, support groups, a peer support line, the peer project for youth and a comprehensive resource library.
When Bailly began volunteering for the Rainbow Resource Centre, she dove right in, heading up a two-year project that involved a complete overhaul of the organization's resource library. Twice a week, she would manage a team of 10 volunteers as they weeded through old books, changed the cataloguing system and acquired new books. Today, the Rainbow Resource Centre library contains more than 3,000 books, CDs and videos, with an online database that members of the public can peruse from the comfort of their own home.
"Volunteers like Angela have meant so much to the Rainbow Resource Centre over the years," says Chad Smith, executive director, Rainbow Resource Centre. "We started specifically as a volunteer-run organization and value all the work that our volunteers, past and present, have done to make the Rainbow Resource Centre a leader for the community."
But the completion of the library project was simply the beginning for Bailly as far as volunteering. Recognizing that people within the community needed social outlets and places for meeting outside of the club and bar scene, Bailly spearheaded the Queer Leisure Guide, which lists events created by and hosted for the GLBTT community. She also started and runs the Winnipeg Queer Book Club and the Winnipeg Queer Yarn Lovers and Crocheting Group, otherwise known as "Stitch and Biotch," which meets once a month.
"It's a wonderful place to volunteer," says Bailly. "A lot of times people begin volunteering here as a process of coming out and meeting new people. I've always said that it's a place that gives back just as much as you give."
For more information about the Rainbow Resource Centre and how to get involved, please visit: http://www.rainbowresourcecentre.org .
If you know a special volunteer who strives to make his or her community a better place to live, please contact Carolyn Shimmin at