Wednesday, August 20, 2008

"Proud to Be The Daughter of Rachel Hervey"

Today we have a special guest posting by Becky Jorgeson, a past co-president of our Central Coast, CA chapter, on her amazing PFLAG mother (and a co-founder of the Central Coast Chapter)- Rachel Hervey...

I write this story about an amazing woman, my 81 year-old mother, Rachel Hervey, RN, who lives just outside of the sleepy little town of Santa Margarita on the Central Coast of California. Twenty five years ago, my brother came out to us as a gay man, and thus it all began. My mother decided to act. In 1991, she started up the Central Coast Chapter of PFLAG with another woman. Many times they were the only two at the meetings, though as the years went by, more and more folks joined until we were up to 45 members. My mother independently staffed our PFLAG hotline for seven years, taking calls at all times of the day or night, patiently listening to everyone who called, regardless of the issue. She began a Cal Trans Adopt-a-Highway clean up program in PFLAG's name, and for many years kept a section of the highway clean by herself. Today, my dad carries on the family tradition.

In 1992, my mom started the PFLAG information table downtown during our weekly Farmers' Market in San Luis Obispo on Thursday nights - we are a clearinghouse for those who visit. We provide free educational materials, and are there to support and advocate for our gay citizens on the Central Coast (and elsewhere). For years, she went downtown every Thursday night (except in the winter time), set up the table, worked it and took it down by herself.

She purchased seats at the Clark Center in Arroyo Grande (one of the local performing arts centers) in PFLAG's name; she made a donation to the William F. Clinton Library in Arkansas in the name of PFLAG and her family; for many years, she hired an artist to do a piece of work at our local i Madonnari street fair, which is now done by the chapter. She has contributed her time, energy and love in so many ways over the years that it's hard to keep track.

She was the one who kept after me for so long to "get into the schools..." I ended up serving as president of our chapter for almost four years running. We took our dog-and-pony show into the schools; middle schools, high schools, community colleges, our local university; we hit them all. We held meetings with superintendents, principals, PTAs, college residence halls advisors, the entire athletic department at Cal Poly, Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and churches... they all know our name. My sons used to think our last name was "PFLAG!"

She helped with fund raisers at the Madonna Inn and in people's homes. She showed movies at the Palm Theater and any other venue we could think of. We earned money to buy films on gay issues to put into the schools, earned money for materials to give out on the streets and buttons to sell to the young people who would wear them proudly - "We love our gay son," or "Proud to be the mother of a lesbian daughter!"

She has been the biggest advocate for PFLAG that we'll ever know. She regularly calls into the local radio talk show, writes letters to the editor, representatives in Congress, and the Senate. She even has the ability to call the White House once a week for free (which she does!) with her telephone long distance carrier. The woman is amazing. There is nothing she won't do to help protect the safety of her son, and gays and lesbians everywhere.

And she's the one who always encouraged us to help others...which we do. I couldn't be more proud of her if I tried.