Denny David: A Place and a Purpose

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At NPQ, respect for our readers’ work, intelligence, and insight is core to all we do. And, indeed, research says that the nonprofit workforce is motivated differently than the other two sectors. So, we thought we would go out and ask them. The result is this special online series that will run every workday for the next month, illuminating what motivates each of twenty profiled workers.

 We think much of what they say will resonate with you, but this is also who NPQ serves each day. They are why our work is so important, and NPQ can’t exist without your contributions.

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DennyDavid4

Deputy Director, Lavender Youth Recreational and Info Center (LYRIC)

Why NPQ serves Denny proudly…

I was raised Catholic in the 1980s and was exposed to the progressive work that had been done around liberation theology movements. I was around people, for instance, working for immigrant rights and doing anti-death penalty work. Given my Catholic upbringing, I was inspired to show up to be of service to the community. That was something that definitely sustained me and gave me a sense of purpose, even at a time when, growing up as young and queer, I questioned whether or not I had a place and a purpose.

When I joined LYRIC as a youth intern, I felt a tremendous sense of relief. For the first time in my life, my sexual orientation wasn’t something I actively thought about, because the community and the culture of the organization allowed me to be seen as a unique individual. The relief that I felt from that experience was profound and life-saving in so many ways.

That internship was incredibly challenging as well. My assignment that summer was to work with our transgender health and wellness coordinator, and I knew absolutely nothing about health justice issues facing the transgender community. It was a very humbling experience, and I was so grateful for that learning opportunity.

In choosing to come back to LYRIC as a staff member, I thought, well, I want to be in a place that’s going to challenge me and where I’m going to continue to learn. And when I stop feeling like I’m being challenged and learning, I’ll move on to the next place where I can be of service. And, you know, 13 years later, I’m still here with the organization, and I’m still being challenged and I’m still learning.

Just as one example, a young person struggling with issues of substance use asks the question, “How can I possibly think about my sobriety when I feel spiritually worthless?” And having to sit there as part of an organization and say, “Wow, we don’t have an answer to that.” So, as LYRIC staff, we have to ask ourselves, “What does the process of healing from religious homophobia and cultivating a sense of spiritual worth look like in our community?”

When you walk through our center, you’ll see teams of youth leaders struggling with these types of complex questions and working at the forefront of intersecting issues of racial and economic justice, immigrant rights, and violence prevention. What keeps me in this work is that there are so many questions our young people are asking; they’re seeking out solutions and we have to be here to support them through their leadership journey.

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Why Denny cares about NPQ…

Resources like Nonprofit Quarterly create opportunities for nonprofits and nonprofit leaders to stimulate dialogue, to bring visibility to complex social issues. That is completely essential to our work if we’re going to advance social justice and equity in our communities. Otherwise, we might stop actively challenging each other and we would not advance as quickly.