Rabbi Lief is the Senior Rabbi at The Temple in Jacksonville. He grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia where he was active in all sports, music, and was an Eagle Scout. He attended Princeton University, where he swam on the varsity squad, competed on the debate team, and graduated with a degree in History. Learn more: http://wp.me/p3PnKk-jV
Huge THANK YOU to Pat Geraghty, Florida Blue CEO, for his continued support of our “We Are Straight Allies” campaign!
“Honoring the dignity of every person is an ethic that I wholeheartedly believe in. In addition, respect is one of our core values at Florida Blue. The company is an inclusive organization that honors and draws upon the diverse experiences, abilities and backgrounds of our employees. This is what helps us attract the best talent and create an environment of teamwork.
In demonstration of this commitment – I have joined the We Are Straight Allies campaign as a Straight Ally in support of a Human Rights Ordinance in the City of Jacksonville…To reinforce the We Are Straight Allies message, “nothing is more important than our humanity,” and everyone has a right to the same opportunities.”
Frieda Saraga, Trailblazer and Mother of five children — all adults one gay son, two twin daughters who are lesbian and a son and daughter who are straight — shares how they all love one another very much and supportive of one another and why it is important that we pass a comprehensive Human Rights Ordinance in the city of Jacksonville.
Frieda Saraga, mother of five children — all adults one gay son, two twin daughters who are lesbian and a son and daughter who are straight — they all love one another very much and supportive of one another.
My husband, Leonard and I have been married 62 years and certainly did not envision having such a diverse family–we both had a great deal to learn. Since they are all in their 50’s and a little beyond, there were no GSA’s, no local PFLAG chapters and no internet available to us for information but we had the main ingredient–we love our children very much. We began realizing that being gay or lesbian was even much less accepted by many and I began to hear jokes and remarks that were hurtful and suddenly I stopped friends who were making those remarks and tell them these remarks are not ok to use–we have gay children I became an advocate without realizing it. Our friends realized they still loved our children and being gay was just one thing about them. Jacksonville was even more conservative if possible than in this day and age and many religion biases.
Growing up I remembered prejudice for being Jewish–as a child having children stick me with pins to see if I had blood like everyone else–ideas that parents had raised their children with and to realize my children and many of their friends might go thru greater prejudice made both my husband and myself aware that something had to change. After being in retail business with three stores for thirty years we were both at a loss as to what to do when we grow up–I started volunteering at the HIV testing clinic –this was twenty years ago when the gay population was being so infected with the virus. i took the counseling training with the encouragement of my son who felt I would have compassion for the gay population that was coming in to be tested and have remained an HIV testing counselor during my 16 years at Planned Parenthood and the last four years testing every week end in the Bay Street jail with inmates.
At the same time a wonderful co-facilitator, Judy Higgison and myself were asked to take over an HIV support group called Positive Attitudes that met every Tuesday evening and for the past eighteen years we have been with many wonderful men and women thru the years–thankfully for the last few years we have seen people live their lives unlike the first ten years when we saw so many pass away. The group is based on attitudinal healing and we both have gained even more than we have given. As this was all happening, about twenty years ago, our son, Scott, again suggested that perhaps we could have a group that parents of glbt children could meet together, thus the beginning of PFLAG of Jacksonville.
We found a place to meet and thru the years we had to find other meeting places and put something I believe about a support group in a small spot in the paper and a phone number with no address for the security of those who might attend. Those first few years each monthly meeting brought mostly mothers of gay children who were crying and so many were torn because of religious beliefs. Within time we became a chapter of PFLAG National and thru the years have met every month, have a hot line and have become a viable organization which gives support, education, and advocacy in the community concerning GLBT issues. We work hand in hand with JASMYN and are active with many organizations in the community.
I have presented programs for companies, college classes and other groups. Our biggest project being our Scholarship program–the only one in the state of Florida that has awarded over $250,000 to GLBT students since 1996. Imagine conservative Jacksonville in north-conservative Florida having a program that you would expect to find in a more liberal south Florida!
My husband and I have had the privilege of being such a part of our children’s lives and having their partners and friends become our extended family. Their older brother and sister are always advocates on these issues–we have a family that has embraced one another for who each person is and the key word LOVE prevails always.
Life brings many journeys –love and caring- made us speak for those who could not speak. I have been overwhelmed by the respect and love we have received from the community. For parents who refuse to love their child for who they are, and not embrace them with love, they have lost the gift of the journey we have traveled –not always easy–but so worth it–we have grown as a family to love and respect differences, not just likenesses.
The Chartrand Family proudly joins the “We are Straight Allies” campaign in support of their son and brother, Jeffrey, and for the entire LGBT community. In their own words, they describe the importance for why they are ‘coming out’ as allies:
We joined this movement as a family to send an intentional message regarding family acceptance, love, and support for the LGBT families. Family rejection is one of the biggest issues contributing to LGBT youth homelessness and drug abuse. According to the National Alliance To End Homelessness (NAEH), roughly 1 in 5 youth who are homeless self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT). LGBT youth are more likely to run away from home or be rejected by their families if family members have difficulty accepting their sexual orientation. Once homeless, LGBT youth face disturbingly high rates of physical assault, sexual exploitation, and mental health problems.
Our son and brother, Jeff, identifies as a gay man. We were unaware of the suffering Jeff experienced growing up in Jacksonville but since have learned that his suffering was most caused by the messages that were sent directly and indirectly to him about who he was and is. He was not protected then and is not protected now.
We joined this effort to pass the Human Rights Ordinance on behalf of human rights, human dignity, and equal rights for the LGBT community. Not additional rights, not different rights just equal rights. The decision whether or not to pass a Human Rights Ordinance is to decide whether we are humanizing or dehumanizing the LGBT community or more simply are we treating people with the dignity and respect that they deserve?
We invite the larger Jacksonville community to break through fear, silence, despair, complicity and indifference, and follow the truth by joining in the struggle for justice for all our LGBT brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters. We need to speak out publicly, become engaged for what is right. Equal rights for all is the only way of correcting this injustice.
We love this city and it is our hope that together we can send the message of love and acceptable to all who reside here.
Gary Chartrand is the Executive Chairman of Acosta, a leading full-service sales and marketing agency, providing to manufacturers in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. He has been the pivotal force behind quadrupling the company’s geographic coverage, transforming Acosta into a leading full-service sales and marketing company in the U.S. and Canada. Gary received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the State of Florida in May 2001, and has been an extraordinary leader in his industry and his community. From 2003 to 2009 Mr. Chartrand was recognized as one of the 50 most powerful leaders in the grocery industry by Supermarket News.
Mr. Chartrand also has a passion for educating our children in Duval County. In April 2007, he led a community effort to help bring Teach for America to Jacksonville. Jacksonville was the second city in Florida to have attracted Teach for America to its community. Because of his passion for education, coupled with his business and leadership experience, Mr. Chartrand was appointed to the State Board of education in 2011.
Gary currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation; St. Vincent’s Hospital, The Jacksonville Public Education Fund, and a director on the board of the KIPP schools in Jacksonville, FL. He previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for the I. M. Sulzbacher Homeless Center in Jacksonville. Gary is actively involved in raising funds for The Wounded Warrior Project, headquartered in Jacksonville. He is also an enthusiastic supporter of the Catholic Charities, Guardian of Dreams Catholic schools and the Diocese of St. Augustine.
Gary is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire. He resides in Ponte Vedra Beach with his wife, Nancy. They have two children, Jeffrey and Meredith.
Born Nancy Jane Piecuch in 1954 to first generation Polish immigrants, Frank and Jane Piecuch. Nancy’s birthplace and home was Manchester, New Hampshire where her value of volunteerism took hold. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a Bachelor of Science and teaching degree. In 1982, the Chartrand family migrated to Jacksonville, Florida where they have made their home. Continuing with the values instilled in her during childhood, Nancy served on the Parent Teacher Associations at her children’s schools and the family’s local parish, Resurrection Church. Her devotion to the Catholic faith has inspired a deep belief in social justice.
She has served throughout the community on numerous boards including The Ronald McDonald House, St. Vincent’s Hospital. PACE School for Girls, and Birthright, Inc. Currently Nancy sits on the board at PACE, St. Vincent’s Healthcare Foundation where she is the chair the cultivation committee, and Chairman of the Board at The Chartrand Foundation which focuses on equal opportunities for all.
Their daughter, Meredith graduated from Florida State University in 2003, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Child Sciences. After graduation, she moved to New York City, where she taught art at a Montessori school. In 2006, Meredith moved back to Jacksonville to help to improve the lives of Jacksonville’s children and work with her family to establish The Chartrand Foundation. She currently serves on the board of The Chartrand Foundation, Discovery Montessori School, and The Women’s Giving Alliance. While raising three young daughters with her husband Mark, she has spearheaded initiatives in Early Childhood Development with specific interest in the JCCI Children 1-2-3 Study and the Healthy Start Coalition. Meredith believes that children in Jacksonville can reach their full potential when they are born healthy and their early stage development is nourished, and invests her time in ensuring these outcomes are available to the greatest number of children possible.
Mark Frisch is a Jacksonville native. He graduated from Bolles High School, then attended the University of Florida, where he graduated in 2003 earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a major in management. After graduation, Mark joined his family business, Beaver Street Fisheries Inc. where he currently serves as the Executive Vice President.
In 2010, Mark was a recipient of the Jacksonville Business Journal’s 40 and under 40 awards.
He is an active member in the community, serving on the board of Trustees of Jacksonville University, the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and the Board of Directors of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
Most recently, Mark has bought a soccer franchise in the NASL which will begin to play in 2015. Mr. Frisch’s Hobbies include, playing golf, watching sports, and finding time for his love of automobiles.