HRC Colorado Spotlight: Liz Eaton and John Gerkin
March 1, 2012
by Mike Yost
Meet Liz Eaton and John Gerkin, co-chairs on HRC Colorado’s Corporate Committee, sharing it with HRC volunteer Paul Kaiser. Liz and Gerk cheerfully refer to themselves as straight grandparents working for LGBT equality. They relentlessly seek out corporate sponsors here in Colorado to support the Human Rights Campaign. In 2011, the Corporate Committee doubled the amount of support from local businesses in 2010, and they are both working hard to exceed that goal in 2012.
Gerk and Liz became HRC members in 2009 when they walked past an Human Rights Campaign booth during Denver’s PrideFest. “I didn’t even know what HRC was,” said Liz, who works as an interior designer. Many of her clients and coworkers are part of the LGBT community, and she was tired of seeing the inequality they endured. Gerk, who travels the country selling furniture, also saw the need for equal treatment with his own clients. They spoke to the HRC volunteer behind the booth and immediately signed up as members. That night these grandparents turned activists slapped on the iconic equality stickers on the backs of their cars. “We never looked back,” said Liz.
One of the most difficulat parts thier volunteer work is finding businesses in Colorado that are unaware of HRC. That means cold calling or hitting the pavement, walking into restaurants, hotels, and business all around Denver. “The biggest challenge is getting the ‘hell no!’” said Liz, commenting on how some managers have responded when they explain HRC’s mission. But their persistence offers its own rewards. When Liz and Gerk walked into the Hornet restaurant on 1st and Broadway, “we were waiting for the rejection,” Liz recalled, “then the manager suddenly said ‘sign us up!’” Liz also shared the story of walking into a Denver restaurant where the manager walked them to a photograph mounted on the wall. It was a picture of a close friend who suffered from AIDS but didn’t seek treatment for fear of how his family would react. The restaurant manager told Liz and Gerk she wanted to give something back to the community, in his name, and signed up to be a corporate sponsor.
Both Liz and Gerk actively encourage others to volunteer. “You’ll make a difference, no matter how small,” said Liz. If you’d like to join Liz, Gerk, and countless other Coloradans working toward LGBT equality, contact HRC Colorado at [email protected] for more information.