Long after the advent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the fight against this notorious disease rages quietly on. The reality of living with chronic illnesses like HIV is a struggle for many, but those in the Carolinas have somewhere to turn: Different Roads Home, founded by Dale Pierce in 2013. Pierce, a 45-year-old gay male, lives in Huntersville, N.C. with his husband, Ed. Originally from the Buffalo, N.Y. area, Pierce moved to the Carolinas “for as they said in ‘A Chorus Line,’ to commit suicide in Buffalo is redundant.” Pierce has made it his life’s mission to help those who live with chronic diseases, and his career has taken him through a variety of organizations, from Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) to two different positions with Rosedale Infectious Diseases, where he is currently the CFO. Pierce’s priority is providing care and resources to those impacted by HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.
What led you to found Different Roads Home?
Working in the HIV field and having personal experience and losing too many friends too soon, I decided that DRH needed to be founded. We need, as an LGBTQ community, to take the message of HIV and prevention to the greater public. Great advances have been made in terms of treatment, but infections are still happening. We need to stop stigma and get down to the business of helping people with the disease, and help those who are not infected understand why prevention is important.
What can you tell me about the Nov. 12 event at McGlohon Theater?
Different Roads Home was proud and excited to present its 7th annual coming together of community and cause with this event at the McGlohon Theater. In years past, the event has brought some of the biggest names in gospel and country entertainment together for recognition of the message to bring an end to stigma surrounding HIV. This year will be no different with three amazing talents; Jason and DeMarco, Teresa Giudice (“Real Housewives of New Jersey”) and this year’s Humanitarian of the Year award recipient, country superstar Louise Mandrell.
Of the many services offered by the organization, which is most dear to your heart and why?
That is a hard question. I don’t really see one service being more important than another. The premise of Different Roads Home is that we are all on a different path and we face uphill and downhill struggles along that journey. I feel whatever is most beneficial to the client at the time, is what makes me the happiest. I like the feeling of knowing we have made an immediate difference in the lives of someone that is struggling.
Are you involved in any other LGBTQ community organizations?
For many years I have volunteered with countless other organizations in the community. I have recently taken a stronger interest in the Chamber to help make sure LGBTQ businesses and leaders in Charlotte have a stronger voice. I have served on the Mecklenburg County AIDS Task Force, worked with RAIN, MAP, and Carolinas Care. I also am always happy to support Pride and the Gay Film Festival in any way I can. Recently also, I have been a participant in Stonewall Sports, they are a great organization.
Where do you see your career going in the next 10 years?
Hopefully to retirement! [Laughs] Just kidding, if we can grow DRH and the services we offer. I am happy and content with this organization and the people we are serving, but making a larger impact to more individuals is always a great feeling.
What do you do to relax or have fun?
Is that a foreign language? I do throw myself into work, and it takes a lot of my time. However, my husband and I recently bought a cabin in Maggie Valley, N.C., and we love spending time up there when we can get away. We love to travel. I like to garden, cook, enjoy great wine (or any wine), and recently picked up acting again as I starred as Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram in our co-production of “Sordid Lives,” the Del Shores comedy.
Who inspires you, either professionally or personally?
I know people often say it at award shows and in writing, but God. I say it because to me I have a strong and centered spiritual belief and I think it is important for the larger community to know that LGBTQ people can be good Christians. I also think my grandmother has been a huge inspiration to me, as was my father who passed in 2006. Professionally, I credit so much of my passion to Jeanne White Ginder, Ryan’s mother. She has dedicated her life to carry on her son’s legacy and spread a message of acceptance.
How would you describe your “happy place?”
On the porch of my mountain cabin, with a glass of wine, in front of a fire, along side my husband and our dogs.