Our personal interests and passions are a fuel. When we move them to the forefront, we can engage in a purpose that is unique to each of us. This is what we need and hope for the social good sector and nonprofit leadership. Purpose-driven board leaders have an incredible capacity to transform the board’s ability to accomplish mission.
So when we connected Capital One professional and BoardLead candidate Carl Gaines, our team matched him with an organization of special personal connection. In a feature interview, Carl Gaines shares on the meaning of his board service with Callen-Lorde, a New York City-based Community Health Center and global leader in LGBTA+ healthcare.
What about board service with Callen-Lorde has been most meaningful to you and also to them in the past year?
For me, it has been most meaningful to give back to an organization that was really there for me when I needed help myself. When I came to New York, I had plenty of enthusiasm, friends, and hope but what I didn’t have was health insurance. Knowing that I had high quality healthcare at Callen-Lorde, no matter how much money I happened to have in those early days, allowed me to stabilize myself and establish a career. So the time I’ve spent this past year active in board service there has meant a lot.
We’ve managed to work together in ways that have contributed to increased visibility of their work, both within my organization and across the general public. I’m guessing that’s what has been most meaningful to Callen-Lorde.
Any advice and wisdom you wish to share with black leaders looking for opportunities to have an impact in communities where they live and work? Is there anything you wish you had been told earlier on?
Black leaders are already having that impact in their communities. I’ve learned from many others, primarily my father. What they’ve taught me is to ask a lot of questions about things I’m interested in and to not be afraid to jump in if there is an opportunity to help. I’ve also learned that everyone has something to bring to the table. You don’t have to be the loudest, most aggressive person. That’s what I wish someone had told me earlier on—when it comes to service, everyone has something to offer.
Share or talk about Callen Lorde’s mission and the opportunities you have had to embody, advocate and elevate their work?
Callen-Lorde’s mission is to provide high-quality healthcare targeted to New York’s LGBTQ+ community, regardless of ability to pay. They do this in an environment that is judgment free, which is incredibly important. Because I’m also a patient there, I’ve had the ability to watch this in action. It is moving to see the care and respect with which clients are treated, especially those who are historically mistreated, endangered, or taken advantage of outside Callen-Lorde’s walls. It’s a safe haven.
I’ve tried to look for opportunities to highlight that mission, especially during COVID-19, when the amazing staff there has been working so hard in such an uncertain time. One example of this is a video that my employer, Capital One, produced about Callen-Lorde’s resilience during this time—evidenced by the opening of a new clinic in Brooklyn.
Carl Gaines is a Senior Communications Manager at Capital One and has been serving on Callen-Lorde’s board since 2018.
The BoardLeader Spotlight series shares stories of nonprofit leaders that are achieving great results with great care and commitment to their organization and mission.