Rita Myers (left) and Bonnie Strahs, two of the founders of GO!, are seen here at their wedding last June. They chose to live in Mt. Airy “because of its reputation as a lesbian-friendly community and because of the beauty, convenience and accessibility of the neighborhood.” (Photo by Robin Miller)

Rita Myers (left) and Bonnie Strahs, two of the founders of GO!, are seen here at their wedding last June. They chose to live in Mt. Airy “because of its reputation as a lesbian-friendly community and because of the beauty, convenience and accessibility of the neighborhood.” (Photo by Robin Miller)

by Mary Frances Cavallaro

Philadelphia is a combination of two Greek words, “philia” and “delphos,” which combined means “the city of brotherly love,” as schoolchildren in the city have been taught for centuries. However, you might also say that Mt. Airy is the “neighborhood of sisterly love” since Mt. Airy has a higher number and percentage of lesbians than any other neighborhood in the country, according to articles in recent years in the Philadelphia Inquirer and Advocate, a national gay magazine.

Mt. Airy has been known nationally for years as a gay-friendly community, so it is no surprise that an organization called GO! (Give to Others), started by gay women from Mt. Airy and elsewhere, will be holding a fundraising event called “Wine, Women and Song” this Saturday, May 16, 2 to 5 p.m., at The John C. Anderson Apartments, 251 South 13th St., on behalf of the building’s female residents. (The Anderson Apartments provide low-income housing for elderly LGBT men and women.)

The purpose of the event is “to give a little something back to the women who paved the way for us. Women who identified as lesbian, bisexual or transgender long before it was accepted, before it was safe to love another woman, let alone marry her! Many still have difficulty making ends meet. There simply is not enough money at the end of each month to cover all of their basic expenses.”

GO! was started by several women from the Philadelphia area, including Mt. Airy. The six Philadelphia women who form the core of GO! are Heather Gibson, Shanna Halpern, Rita Myers and Bonnie Strahs of Mt. Airy, Stacia Fischer of Somerdale, NJ, and Luciann Givonetti of Malvern.

Myers, who was recently featured in the Local about her marriage in June of 2014 to Bonnie Strahs, stated, “We began planning GO! in 2011 and held our first event in February of 2012. During the planning stages, Carol Boylan and Laura Young were also part of our group. GO! is a ‘giving circle’ formed to help women and children in need, with a special emphasis on the LGBT community.

“Giving circles are a growing nationwide phenomenon, built on century-old traditions such as mutual aid societies, where a community of people get together and chip in money. GO! aims to help women and children in want of home and business-related goods, financial aid, educational support, psycho-social assistance, mentoring and more.”

Giving circles usually operate by requesting donations and contributions, which would go to a charitable organization. However, Philadelphia GO! believes that women donate more than money to those in need. In previous events, contributions included various goods such as small appliances and services like painting and freshening up spaces for LGBT youth.

“We identify an organization with a specific, attainable need and partner with them,” said Myers. “We then create an event around that need, which can be a party, a service day, a fundraiser, etc. We collect or do what is needed and then immediately hand it over to the organization that we have partnered with.

“Our organizational vision is to bring members of our community together and enjoy each other’s company while we help others in need. We intentionally keep things at a smaller, attainable scale. However, since 2012 we have donated at least $8,000 worth of goods and services. We are always amazed by the generosity of our community.

“At the upcoming event [Wine, Women, and Song] we are hoping to have a turnout of at least 50–60 people. We’re asking that everyone who attends bring a donation of $25 in the form of a gift card to one of several stores we have identified as popular among the residents, or cash, or a check. We will turn all funds over to the William Way LGBT Community Center, which will distribute them to the women.”

The William Way Center encourages, supports and advocates for the well-being and acceptance of sexual and gender minorities in the Greater Philadelphia region through service, recreational, educational and cultural programming. Saturday’s event will include music by Sharon Katz, a South African native and long-time Mt. Airy activist, and duo Joanne and Kevin Joella. Food, beer, wine and soft drinks will be provided, and there will be a chance to meet some of the senior women.

A tax-deductible check should be made out to the William Way Community Center. The gift cards should come from Wawa, SuperFresh, Reading Terminal Market, Walgreens, CVS or Walmart. More information at rita1212@comcast.net or www.facebook.com/pwgto.

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