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Profiles of Compassion and Courage: Thom Lynch

stuDynamic non-profit executive Thom Lynch has nearly 25 years of leadership experience in our community, doing everything from serving as Program Director of the San Francisco Food Bank to holding the CEO & President positions at the SF LGBT Community Center. Looking at his numerous achievements, it’s almost easier to ask: What hasn’t he done? Now, Lynch is serving as Chief Development Officer of Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. He is excited to apply his time and effort to this effective and much needed organization.

SS: How did you become involved in your work?

TL: You know, I’ve done so many different things in my life. I was a gospel singer, a commercial actor, a social worker, and waited on my share of tables. But my life really came together when I came to San Francisco and fell in love with this city. I’ve always cared about fairness, and trying to make the world just a little bit better for all of us. There is so much cruelty around. But immersing myself in this city allowed me to have a voice and a career that can make a difference.

SS: Who have been your key mentors?

TL: Well, my parents were tremendously caring people. They were involved in civil rights work when I was a kid and that left a real mark on me. They instilled a real sense of empathy. Professionally, there were so many wonderful people that I’ve had the pleasure to work with. Tom Nolan was a great mentor when I was really getting my legs in non-profit work in San Francisco.

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Thom Lynch

SS: If you could solve or fix a community problem, what would it be?

TL: I think it would have to be the cost of living in the Bay Area and the growing economic inequality here and around the country. I remember talking about this 10 years ago. The level of poverty in the LGBT community is much higher than many of us acknowledge. This could really be a much higher priority for us. We are losing our middle class and we no longer live in a place where students, artists, the elderly, the poor, and the sick can find a home. It’s great that the city is booming. But if only a part of the community can feel a positive impact from this growth, the cost may just be too high.

SS: What achievement are you most proud of?

TL: I’ve been lucky to be involved in many great projects. I’m proud that the Center survived and is now run so well by Rebecca Rolfe. I’m very pleased with the work Project Open Hand has done in expanding its client base. I’m proud of the opportunities I’ve had to speak on LGBT issues in Cuba, Spain, Israel and many other places. I’m thrilled about the work Bevan Dufty and I did in economic development and LGBT youth issues. Right now, I am very proud to be serving on the board of LYRIC. It’s an LGBT youth organization that is doing tremendous work, particularly the work they are doing in schools to help kids and make real long-term systemic changes.

SS: What are your goals for the future?

TL: I am joining a great organization, Out & Equal Workplace Advocates. I want to make sure that their work continues to grow and makes a difference in the US and around the world. It’s wonderful to be able to be a part of a project that works to ensure opportunity and unlimited potential for people in their jobs. And to move companies to make sure that all of their employees have the same chance.

Stu Smith is board chair emeritus of Shanti Project, board chair of The Paratransit Coordinating Council, a member of the Castro Country Club Advisory Board and the LGBT Senior Task Force, and producer and host of the public access TV program “The Drag Show.” KQED has honored Stu as a 2013 LGBT Hero.