LGBT Local Heroes Max Disposti and Carolyn Bolton Achieve Success Together
LGBT Pride Month 2013 Honoree
When it comes to collaboration, seems to me that the key to success is in finding balance. At least, that’s been the case for Max Disposti and Carolyn Bolton, who for the past five years have been working together effectively. And, the way they make it work is by building on each other’s strengths.
Disposti, who grew up in Rome, Italy, just blocks from the Vatican, is gregarious, outspoken and rather at home being the center of attention. Bolton, a native Californian, is cautiously quiet, and shies away from the limelight, preferring to work steadfastly behind the scenes. She’s not used to being interviewed and lets me know right away.
Disposti is a visionary, a big picture sort of guy. Bolton has a knack for pinning down those dreams and making them real. The devil is in the details and she has had a hand in bringing many of Disposti’s ideas to fruition. And, when they speak, Disposti makes clear he wants to give Bolton her chance in the spotlight, so that she can share her perspective.
Disposti is Executive Director and Bolton is Board Chair for the North County LGBTQ Resource Center, which they founded and opened 18 months ago. Together, they are being honored as Local Heroes for 2013 LGBT Pride Month.
Bolton, who also serves as the center’s Project Youth Director, explains how they’ve been able to work together to achieve their common goal of creating a presence and a safe place for all LGBTQ families in North County.
“Max is a fabulous visionary,” she says. “He has all these wonderful ideas. We try to make it happen. If I get too involved in the details, building the structure, he’ll get me out of it, and get me to see the big picture. And, if he gets up in the clouds too much, we have to bring him around a little bit and say okay, let’s build the infrastructure so that you can get it down. Without one or the other it would never work, but together we work in a mutually respective way. We support each other in our methodology and our vision, so it’s worked out very well.”
“Since I met Carolyn, I’ve seen that she’s always had the capacity to translate all the dreams and all the passion into possibilities,” adds Disposti. “We are really different in terms of personality, but the same in terms of what we care about. Carolyn really helped pin down the dream of creating the space for the resource center, drawing from her past human resources expertise. Since the beginning, her presence has made a real difference.”
Their work began five years ago, when Disposti founded the North County LGBT Coalition to address the needs of their community in an area largely dominated by the military presence of Camp Pendleton. Bolton joined the team and, along with a slew of volunteers, they worked arduously to open the North County LGBTQ Resource Center in December 2011. Located in Oceanside, it is the only one of its kind serving residents north of San Diego.
“Our families had no representation, no visibility,” notes Disposti. “We were completely isolated, and [a North County LGBT center] just didn’t exist, though we all knew that there are thousands of us in North County. We just didn’t have a voice.”
One of the resource center’s primary efforts is to support the LGBTQ youth of North County. Bolton, as the Project Youth Director, gets emotional thinking about how they just held their very first Pride Prom, which was a labor of love.
“The prom is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” says Bolton. "To see what it means to these kids, who got so excited planning it, is amazing. It was all they could talk about for weeks. Our theme was 'Masquerade,' and we had 88 students show up. We’ll definitely be doing it again, because whenever we start something we really want to continue. That’s why it took so long to make the prom happen. We just wanted to make sure we could sustain it, which is very important to us.”
The prom offered mask making, and rainbow tutus for those needing to “dress up” their outfits.
“They couldn’t dress up at home for a prom if they hadn’t yet come out to their parents,” Bolton explains. “That’s the struggle.”
The prom also included HIV testing, offered by the Visa Community Clinic. “We are trying to get our youth in the habit of getting tested on a regular basis,” she adds. “We want it to become a part of their wellness program.”
Disposti and Bolton are each other’s best advocates, and when they describe what it means to them to be recognized as Local Heroes, it’s clear that what they have going is a mutual admiration society.
“I am very happy that this award is shared with Carolyn,” Disposti says. “I’m glad that people have the chance to see that she is also a full part of the work that’s being done here, as the Board Chair, and as the Project Youth Director, and also as a friend who has been leading our board to a successful growth. It’s really a double honor to share this with Carolyn, and for her to have the recognition.”
Bolton is complimentary, too, noting, “It’s just so humbling, and the fact that Max is being recognized, and I have the privilege to be acknowledged with him, is really more of a reflection of everyone’s hard work. I feel privileged to join them, and be able to work with such an astounding group of individuals.”
With the resource center soon approaching its second anniversary, Disposti can take measure of all they’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time.
“It’s encouraging to see so many people using the center,” notes Disposti. “I’ll never forget there was this mother who was sharing with us the fact that she lost her son. He committed suicide just two years before we opened. She kept saying, ‘I wish you guys were here when he needed help.’ That inspired us. You just can’t listen and do nothing about it. You can’t sit on the bench and wait for things to happen. We came forward with many volunteers who wanted to be part of this.”
Adds Bolton, “Not only have we grown as a center, but I’ve grown as an individual. When you’re an advocate for other people, it really solidifies a lot of self-acceptance for yourself as an individual. It’s humbling because you realize that you’re part of something much bigger than yourself. The center is what is important for everyone in the community, and I don’t mean just the LGBT community, I mean the community at large. It really is an inclusive and open place. That’s always been our main goal and, once in a while, you have those moments where we have individuals come in and you feel the impact that it makes.”