Samantha Giusti, executive director of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF), during the Heroes 2014 award ceremony. Photo: Freedom G Photography

DVLF to recognize LGBT heroes


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Samantha Giusti, executive director of the Delaware Valley Legacy Fund (DVLF), talked to AL DÍA about what sets her organization apart from others, the current challenges of the LGBT movement, and the 2015 Heroes awards, which will be presented during a luncheon this Sunday at the Hotel Monaco.

According to Giusti, while there are many organizations in Philadelphia that provide direct services to the LGBT community, “what makes DVLF different is that we promote philanthropy and we help fuel the LGBT mission by making sure that money is coming into those organizations so they can do the work that they need to do.”

The organization was founded 22 years ago; the Heroes awards were established nine years ago to honor those whose work and leadership advance the rights of the LGBT community.

This year the Lifetime Legacy Award will be presented posthumously to

Gloria Casarez, who served as executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) and who was appointed by Mayor Michael Nutter as Philadelphia’s first official LGBT liaison. Casarez passed away in 2014. Her wife, Tricia Dressel, will be accepting the award on her behalf. 

“Gloria worked for years in the intersectionality of different social justice movements,” said Giusti. “It was due in large part to her efforts that in 2013 Philadelphia was ranked as the number one city for LGBT equality in the country in the HRC municipality equality index.”

The Youth Hero Award will be presented to Micah Rodriguez, from the The Attic Youth Center, who has been working to create a safe space for LGBT youth in schools. 

“When I look at what a leader she is among her peers, how tirelessly she works on behalf of the LGBT community, and what she’s been able to accomplish at 20, I look forward to see what she will be able to accomplish in the future,” Giusti said.



Additionally, the Community Hero Award will be presented to Ian Morrison, better recognized by his stage persona, Brittany Lynn.

The Straight Ally Hero Award will be presented to Deputy Commissioner Kevin Bethel, who worked to adjust the Philadelphia Police Department’s guidelines to detail how officers should interact with transgender people.

The Business Hero Award will be presented to West Laurel Hill, which has given generously to many LGBT organizations.

The Nonprofit Organization Hero Award will be presented to ACLU-PA, an organization instrumental to the the legalization of gay marriage in Pennsylvania in 2014.

“We hope that by elevating these people and organizations, and celebrating their work we encourage others to be heroes in their own community”, Giusti said. 

Despite the advances in the LGBT movement, Giusti noted that there is still a long way to go.

“With the lack of a non-discrimination law in Pennsylvania, you can still be discriminated against in your workplace and be denied housing for being LGBT,” Giusti said. “Even here in Philadelphia we don't even have a hate crime law that is inclusive of the LGBT community.”

She added that “the transgender community is still facing some of the worst health disparities, income disparities, and violence.”

She also talked about the challenges of both the LGBT youth and the aging population.

“We have achieved so much that our youth are feeling more and comfortable coming out at a younger age and the result of that is that they often get kicked out of their homes,” Giusti said. “On the other hand, LGBT elders are often discriminated against in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.”

These are just some of the current challenges of the LGBT movement that DVLF is looking to address through its funding. To help support their cause, consider attending the Heroes awards brunch. Tickets and info here

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