Jane McIntyre, executive director of the United Way of Central Carolinas, spoke to a couple dozen members of the Charlotte Business Guild Tuesday. Her message of inclusive community involvement is a personal one she’s lived by for years.
In her opening remarks to the group, McIntyre told the story of her Rock Hill, S.C., high school friend, Charlie, who came out as a youth. Her friends and his parents were supportive, she said. Such a positive coming out was certainly rare years ago, and especially so in small towns. Nonetheless, Charlie eventually took his own life.
“Our high school class, none of us are over it,” she said. “We’ve never gotten over it.”
Every time her high school class comes together, she said, they take time to remember Charlie.
McIntyre’s inclusive vision and leadership began when times were incredibly different from today. As the world has changed, LGBT people have become more welcomed. Not all change moves at the same pace, however. Poll results released this week, for example, show that gays and lesbians are perceived as the least welcome of several social groups in the Charlotte metro area.
The Guild, a membership organization of business owners, professionals, community leaders and activists, meets monthly. Like McIntyre and the United Way, they are working toward creating a better Charlotte, and partner with mainstream organizations like the Charlotte Chamber in creating more inclusive business and working environments.
Their December meeting, which will be held at the Bechtler Museum, will include the presentation of their annual Don King Community Service Awards. The awards are presented to an organization, business, LGBT community leaders and a straight ally. Recipients have yet to be announced.