As Broadway House for Continuing Care celebrates Pride Month, meet three members of our community who are bursting with pride.
Broadway House Resident
Wesley Thomas was working in retail management at The Mall at Short Hills when his mother passed away in 2015. Her death plunged Wesley into a deep depression. He turned to drugs, and soon found himself living on the streets, sleeping alongside McCarter Highway in Newark with nothing but a blanket. After arriving at Broadway House almost three years ago, he began to receive individual counseling, plus assistance dealing with HIV. Originally an introvert, he soon became engaged in Broadway House activities. Now, he’s looking forward to his discharge and moving to Oklahoma City to be with his sister and other family.
“As a gay man, I’ve always been comfortable with myself. My mom was also very supportive of me. At Broadway House, I’ve learned anger management and coping skills and relapse techniques, and I’ve built social support through therapy. I’ve gained the courage to live the life I want for myself. I know there are still biases in society against the LGBTQ+ community, but at Broadway House I’ve experienced respect and support for who I am. I’m still Wesley—from the moment I was born until I die.”
Donnamarie Lynch, MBA, PhD
Director of Human Resources
As Director of Human Resources at Broadway House, Donnamarie Lynch, MBA, PhD, shares the organization’s mission to support initiatives that address disparities faced by the vulnerable population served here. During her first week on the job someone told her, “Broadway House is a hidden gem in Newark.” It didn’t take long to find out why: The welcoming atmosphere and shared commitment to serving our residents fosters acceptance of every person who works or lives here.
“There is something very special that happens here every day. From residents to staff, we walk through the door with the freedom to be our authentic selves—no judgement—and sincere acceptance for who we are. Broadway House becomes a safe space for residents so their focus can be on healing. I have seen individuals from the LGBTQ+ community come here with their walls up, from years of protection from a world that may not have been kind to them. It does not take long for those walls to crumble away as they begin to experience compassion, acceptance, love, and kindness.
“At Broadway House, we see each other as human first. Acceptance is part of the culture that permeates the organization. No one cares how one identifies themselves, their identity will be respected, period. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is an honor to be a part of Broadway House.”
Gary Paul Wright
Executive Director, African American Office of Gay Concerns
Member, Broadway House Board of Trustees
Gary Paul Wright first encountered Broadway House through an AIDS walk-a-thon, where he met Broadway House President James Gonzalez, MPH, FACHE, LNHA. After accepting an invitation to join the Board of Trustees, he soon became immersed in the Broadway House mission and culture, which aligns well with his role as Executive Director of the African American Office of Gay Concerns (AAOGC). He has felt so welcomed, in fact, that he and his husband, Peter, chose to hold their wedding in the Broadway House chapel.
“Being a Trustee, I have access to patients who may benefit from the services offered by my own organization. Many persons who suffer from HIV and are LGBTQ+ feel isolated and don’t get the competent care they need. At Broadway House, LGBTQ+ folks are welcomed with open arms. Broadway House, its leadership, and its staff are LGBTQ+-savvy in just about every way. “For instance, they celebrate PRIDE every year, which means that my agency can come in with Pride-related goodie bags to distribute. One year, Broadway House hosted a viewing of Paris Is Burning, a docu-film focusing on the Ballroom/House community. Another example would be when Broadway House brought in a special speaker, Valerie Spencer, a renowned LGBTQ+ activist. Broadway House has always been supportive of the AAOGC, and we are able to share resources at the drop of a hat. I look forward to another 20 years of being a member of the Broadway House family.”