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Check Out Tony Biel’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tony Biel.

Hi Tony, how did you start your non-profit?
While hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains with my hiking group, friends Frank Roller, Steve Gratwick and I discussed finding ways to mobilize my hikers to volunteer. We were a gay men’s hiking group, but after Prop 8 / Marriage Equality failed in 2008 and seeing the movie MILK – I was inspired to mobilize the LGBTQ+ community to volunteer. The idea came from how Harvey Milk finally won the Castro – by listening, supporting and uniting the whole community (not just focusing on the LGBTQ members of the Castro). So we started Gay For Good here in LA. Our first project was with the Tree People – a clean-up in Runyon Canyon – trails, mulching, tree planting, etc. Our goal is to get LGBTQ+ volunteers to interact with organizations and communities that might have never met an LGBTQ+ person and foster change through volunteerism. And it has been fun making changes one service project at a time. Over the past 11+ years, we have 17 chapters in the US (5 in CA) and have worked with over 527 non-profit partners and completed over 1340 service projects.

We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
Honestly, it has been a lot of fun. There have been challenges along the way yes, we all have them. I do remember early on some organizations we tried to connect with found our name a bit funny, or the idea of “Gay” volunteers seemed strange. The positive change we make at our projects uplifts our members that come volunteer and surprises/delights the partner organizations that host our volunteers. When we set up a project, our members work hard to do a great job often completing their tasks ahead of schedule. Having fun and making friends along the way. Many of our partner organizations are so impressed they often see if we can come back next month, but we try to space out the projects to give our members a variety of volunteer opportunities.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I have worked in Advertising/Media for past 15+ years – started in Automotive Advertising in. Boston with Volkswagen account, which brought me out to Los Angeles to work on Lexus and Honda. I transitioned over to the Digital Media side of the business and never looked back. I have sold for Digital Publishers, Ad Networks, Video Platforms and most recently, Flipboard a ‘content discovery’ platform. Flipboard combines most of my past sales roles, but also it is one of my favorite mobile apps. I’d say I am a Super User. of Flipboard – it is where I keep up on my personal and professional passions. Selling a product I love has been a lot of fun and the people at Flipboard are also what makes it a great place to work.

We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
For me, success is enjoying my life, helping others and leaving something better than when I found it. I’ve been fortunate in Los Angeles to have a good network of people around me that support each other. Sometimes people compare me to 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon. I have a lot of connections, I am in sales so it’s part of my DNA, but I also like to use that network for good. Living in LA, we are so fortunate to be able to enjoy the outdoors and making sure that I take the time each day to get outside for walks with my boyfriend keeps me sane and happy. Cooking is another passion of mine, and being able to experiment in the kitchen sourcing ingredients from farmer’s markets and Bristol Farms allows me to eat well/live well.

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