Thursday, April 27, 2017

INTERVIEW Eva Suzanne Fiorello


Eva has long had a passion for reaching out and helping others. She’s been working for some time now on feeding the hungry in the Tower District. I reached out to her to talk about her passions, her own struggles and how we can all give back to the community. You can find her group on Facebook… Hungry Hearts

Tell us how you originally got involved in feeding those in need in the community. Many of us get involved in very particular ways in the community. Why do you feel so passionately about this specific effort?

I've been involved in trying to help for most of my life in some capacity, but a few years ago a person put out a call for feeding the homeless here in Fresno on the tower page. I had been laid off at my job with the county and thought, yes let's do it. I was working for Kings view housing and recovery, a program to house homeless and the mentally ill, we did not have enough funding so a few of us were let go. I jumped into this with another individual and from there we went three years strong meeting at Ventura and G St. Feeding and clothing the homeless. Bringing dog food, feminine hygiene, toothpaste, deodorant etc.

The group was doing well and we had many people come to help. Unfortunately because I didn't vote for Trump and the other person I started this with did he banned me and my friends from the group...So I started a new one. Hungry Hearts on Facebook. Please join.

Tell us about the cross range of people you see who need help with food? Is it just the very poor or is it just people who can’t make ends meet?

In general the people we see are out on the streets. They are homeless and don't have much. They can get some help with Poverello house and the mission but my feeling is that they can always use a meal. The people that we help are usually very gracious. They bless us and thank us profusely. We do have the mentally ill out there and once in a while somebody gets a little upset about something but never any violence.

What is a particularly touching experience you’ve had in your efforts to feed the hungry?
I have had quite a few touching experiences over my 45 years plus out on the streets, one in particular comes to mind. A young man who looked like a school student, back pack and everything came to our food line. He was clean cut, well-spoken and very shy. I asked him if there was anything else I could help him with and took him to the side. He explained that his mother had been killed by his father and his father was serving life in prison. He was from another state and was having a hard time receiving benefits here but did have enough money saved up to attend Fresno City College. He held a part time job at a fast food restaurant where no one knew his circumstances. He was 19 years old. 

I made some phone calls and gave him some phone numbers and some money. I had a few friends willing to help this young man out. He is still at FCC and he now has a place to live.


You’ve focused your efforts on the Tower District. What is it about this area of town that motivates you so much?

I was living in the tower at the time for over 10 years. I saw the homeless day after day wandering the streets and begging for food, for money. I help those who are in need if I can. The tower is a small NYC to me. Very diversified in its people so I felt comfortable being there, among my people so to speak.

Do you find that people tend to only focus on those who are hungry during the holidays when this is obviously a day to day problem?

I find that during the holidays there are many people willing to help. I get most of the donations during that time. In general I feel most people feel kinder during the holidays and want to do something, and they do. We had over 200 people served a Thanksgiving meal and a Christmas meal last year and the years prior it was pretty much the same. I don't think that people don't want to help at other times I just believe that it's hard for people to believe that this is an everyday problem that exists in our community, and in our country. I know people that donate their resources and drop off clothing, food etc. but don't have the heart to come out because they feel like they should be doing more. I applaud these people because they are my friends and I understand just how they feel. I couldn't do this financially on my own.

What are some of the best resources in Fresno for those who need help feeding themselves and their families?

In this community we do have resources for some. We have the Poverello house, the Mission ,and Catholic charities. We have a group on line called blessings from the heart ministries that give away free food and clothing, diapers etc.

When people ask I direct them to Gay Central Valley or Trans-e-motion or Poverello, depending on their needs. I don't only do work with the homeless. I go out to the assisted living homes when I can and bring flowers or socks. I counsel gay and trans people if they need my help. I'm kind of on my own here when it comes to those things and I try to engage others into helping when I can.

Where can people find you online? How do they reach you if they want to help?
Come on out once a month and help, it takes about an hour and if you can't come out just join the group on Facebook and be supportive. These people need us, they need you. My group doesn't ask for money. We just want what you can't use. I will pick up or you can drop off. Anything you are not using our food you can share will help.

I happen to know that you have a long history of helping others and of being involved in the community, going back many years. Can you talk a little about how it all started and progressed for you?

My mother was a community health nurse and eventually became a Dr. of nursing and was a professor at Fresno state. I grew up in NYC, my family was middle class as my father worked when he felt like it. When I was 12 my best friend and I took the subway down to Greenwich village on a day we heard there would be riots and protests against gays and transgender people. So I went and I witnessed the most horrible atrocities against people who were just trying to live their lives.

There was a moment when I saw a police officer beat a young man in the head because he was screaming" let us be who we are" he was not being violent he was just angry and voicing how he felt. I decided then that I was raised in a family that accepted others for who they were as human beings, and I would fight any one who would dare to hurt or humiliate anyone who was “different".

I went on in my life moving to California when I was 19. My mom ran a project in NYC called the friendship house. It welcomed the mentally ill and the homeless. I went to work with her every day and realized how mistreated and how stigmatized people were in this position. I learned a lot from those experiences and brought them with me to California.

Around the same time I was noticing some things about myself, terrible mood swings, the ability to stay awake for days and then a terrible crash into oblivion. I had no idea what was happening to me. I continued for many years making terrible life decisions and not realizing that I had a mental illness. I finally was diagnosed in my 30s and after years of craziness got on meds.

The story is long, the story of my life has many curves and pitfalls but I've always been drawn to the damaged souls. The ones who cry out and no one hears them. My wrists display the many times I thought I shouldn't be here. They now display the semi colon because my story isn't over. Those people who are homeless wear a semi colon too. They took a wrong turn, they have no home, they are our brothers and our sisters, our mothers and fathers and sometimes our children.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

INTERVIEW: Jess R. Ohana-Reta

Jess is involved in lot of things…catering, being a DJ, life insurance and most importantly, her relationship with Christy. The two are married and have had a long relationship. When I sat down to do an interview with Jess, Christy was front and center. They work together in life and business, and I set out to find out what drives Jessica and what services she offers.

How did you get into catering?

First and foremost I would not be the woman I am today without the love, support and willingness to help me succeed in my love for all things scratch made by my amazing, strong, kind, passionate for life wife Christy. We have been Us for 17 years now and she continues to threaten me with a good time every day. 

My Love for cooking comes from my sister Sandra and Brother in Law Bern. Sandra inspired me to cook with passion and my Brother in Law showed me to respect the ingredients and to make beautiful appetizing food. I began cooking for local and Bay Area nonprofit events over 15 years ago and as the events grew in numbers so did my reputation as a chef.

What was the biggest hurdle you had getting started in catering?

Becoming a "caterer" was a natural and easy progression for me, my love to cook for others was never a hurdle. I suppose because I primarily cooked for non profit events it was always volunteer work until I was asked to cater a private party. Then came the hard part, what do I charge for my labor? I sometimes still find it difficult to quote a price as I believe you don't need a sliver fork to eat good food. 

What is your specialty?

I enjoy preparing and smoking different meats and poultry, Italian dishes are my favorite but I would be remiss if I didn't go back to my roots of being in the kitchen with my sister making sabroso (Delish) Mexican Inspired dishes. 

Do you tailor the food to the client or do you have set menus?

Absolutely, our clients events are sometimes the most important day of their lives. We coordinate and work with our clients on different menu's that compliment their event theme and budget. 

What events can people reach out to you to provide services for?

I also DJ so we have provided food and or music for every occasion.

We have catered Weddings, Anniversaries, Birthday's, Retirement, Office Events, Baby Showers, Quinceanera's, Christmas Parties, New Years Eve, Celebrations of lives

How much lead time do you need?

2 months is ideal but If we are available at least 3 days to prepare.

What are the busy times of the year?

October/November has proven to be popular wedding months here in the Central Valley but every month there is always something to celebrate which is beautiful thing.

What is the biggest misconception people have about having a caterer handle an event for them?

Adding 25 guests for dinner the day of the their event.

What would be your number one suggestion for people when planning an event?

Plan on 25 more guests 

What is your favorite type of event to cater?

Any celebration when food is involved makes me happy; if I had to choose surprise party's are my favorite.

Do you work with nonprofits and/or community fundraising events?

Yes, one of the most fun and rewarding blessings in my life. I love to give back what was once given to me. I am a member of a 12 step program and aside from meetings and sponsorship, events such as the ones I am involved in to date saved my life 27 years ago and continue to do so.

Do you combine your DJ duties with your catering services?

Yes, we do love to throw a party. We are somewhat of a one stop shop.

What is included in your DJ services?

We provide an amazing selection of music from House, Country, Mexican, Pop, R&B, Old School, Rock & Salsa. I DJ with a sound and music mixer, ample speakers, sound sensitive laser lights & fog machine. I also MC through out the evening. 

You also work in the life insurance field. How do people reach out to you for those services?

I am a life/financial advisor and agent for New York Life in the local Fresno office. I provide protection and financial security for individuals, families and businesses by walking them through their life benefit options. New York Life hired me as an open and out person of the LGBTQ community. As an agent it is important to me to help others get their thoughts in line with their intentions. 

Where can people find you online?

oh-red catering on facebook

What is your life motto? What words do you live by?

At the end of my life I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say "I used everything you gave me"

Queering Fresno: An LGBT+ Reading

Saturday April 29th / 3pm / Goldstein's Mortuary & Delicatessen

Queering Fresno: An LGBT+ Reading

Image result for gay books

History is usually taught in terms of lineage, nation, and ancestry, which often relegates Queer histories to the margins since Queer communities are often generational and not linked through a specific lineage, nation, or ancestry. Each reader, a member of the LGBT+ community, will share work grounded in their own experiences, creating a new kind of history based on archiving our experiences.

RANDA JARRAR's work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Utne Reader,, Guernica, The Rumpus, The Oxford American, Ploughshares, The Sun, and others. Her first book, the Arab-American coming of age novel, A Map of Home, is now on many college syllabi. It was published in half a dozen languages & won a Hopwood Award, an Arab-American Book Award, and was named one of the best novels of 2008 by the Barnes and Noble Review. Her new book, Him, Me, Muhammad Ali, was named one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2016 by The Millions, a Key Collection for Fall 2016 by Library Journal, and one of Electric Literature‘s 25 best collections of the year. She has received fellowships from the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, Hedgebrook, and others, and in 2010 was named one of the most gifted writers of Arab origin under the age of 40. She runs RAWI (the Radius of Arab-American Writers) and loves coordinating events and strengthening communities.

ARIELLE JONES earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. While in San Francisco she served as Editor in Chief for the campus’s undergraduate literary magazine. Prior to joining the M.F.A. program at California State University, Fresno, she was grateful to attend the Iowa Summer Writing Festival.

AARON POOCHIGIAN earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. His book of translations from Sappho, Stung With Love, was published by Penguin Classics in 2009 and his thriller in verse, Mr. Either/Or, will be released by Etruscan Press in Fall of 2017. His work has appeared in such journals as The Guardian, POETRY and The Times Literary Supplement.

STEVEN SANCHEZ is a CantoMundo Fellow and Lambda Literary Fellow. His debut full-length poetry collection, Phantom Tongue (Sundress Publications, 2018), won the Rochelle Ratner Memorial Award and was selected by Mark Doty. He is also the author of two chapbooks, To My Body (Glass Poetry, 2016) and Photographs of Our Shadows (Agape Editions, 2017). His poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Nimrod, and Crab Creek Review, among other journals.

Writers/Artists Wanted for Youth Focused Publication

Image result for creative

Calling Artists and Writers!

Join Gay Central Valley is supporting the efforst of Arisbeth Manzo from Ceasar E Chavez Middle School in Planada and her project for the 20% Project.

The 20% project is a project in which students dedicate 20% of thier week to a topic of thier choice. Arisbeth's project is on raising awareness and respect for the LGBTQ+ community in Planadas. She is going to be creating a magazine or newspaper for distrubtion it on Community Day (May 13th).

This is a call for all you creative types out there to contribute!

Arisbeth is looking for stories or short articles (aim for 600 words) about anything LGBTQ+ related. Topics could be about how to be a good ally, your coming out story, advice to younger LGBT people, or a comic featuring a non-straight character.

All submissions should be appropriate for a wide, younger, audience and be all original creations. 

Deadline is: May 5th.

Email submissions to Kaylia at

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

EVENT: Murder Under The Stars

GCV Welcomes Brooke Schmidt

Gay Central Valley is pleased to announce the addition of Brooke Schmidt to its Board of Directors.

Brooke grew up in the Central Valley and moved to the Bay Area where she found a passion for volunteer work. She has volunteered in many different capacities for many different organizations throughout the years including Glide Memorial (which opened their doors to the LGBT community in the 1960s), the Castro Country Club (a non-profit dedicated to the recovery community), the San Francisco LGBT Center (where she helped with their first LGBT youth prom), and Project Open Hand (which provides meals and groceries to those suffering from HIV/AIDS).

Shortly after returning to Fresno, Brooke reached out to the Fresno LGBT Center and began as a Staff Volunteer where she has been an instrumental part of recruiting and training new volunteers. Brooke is currently attending college while caring for her elderly father. She plans to continue her education with a focus in counseling/therapy.

As a trans woman, Brooke wanted to join the Board and work on some out-reach initiatives including updating the Center's clothing closet to include professional work clothes and basic toiletries as well as outreach within the sex work / survival sex community providing condoms, HIV/STD Testing information, and an open ear and a helping hand to those involved in sex work or without adequate access to toiletries, housing, and clothes.

"I think we can do more for those that are often overlooked, I want to take to the streets, open our hearts and our hands to those who need it most. It is important for us to be on the ground within our community. I know what it's like to be homeless and feel like no one is rooting for you. I want our homeless and LGBT sex worker community to know we see you, we love you, and we are here to help."

Brooke joins President Chris Jarvis, Treasurer Bobbie Mendez, and Secretary Kaylia Metcalfe-Armstrong on the Gay Central Valley Board of Directors. GCV is a 501c3 organization committed tocontributing to and enriching the cultural life and expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons, their families, friends, and supporters through awareness and education of the diversity and history of the LGBT community in California’s Central Valley.

Current Gay Central Valley projects include The Fresno LGBT Community Center, the Transgender Clothing Closet, the Rainbow Delegation, the GCV blog, and ongoing Cultural Competency Seminars. To find out more about GCV and their work, visit

CALL TO ACTION: Propossed Texas Laws Hurt LGBT Community

Legislators in Texas are pushing forward more than fifteen bills that would make it legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people, and today students all over the state are fighting back.

Image result for texas

Visit to sign & share GLAAD’s petition against SB6 and more than 10 anti-LGBTQ “license to discriminate” bills

If these bills became law, they would erase housing, employment, and public accommodation protections for transgender Texans currently in place in large cities in Texas. They’d put children at risk by permitting child welfare agencies to deny services to LGBTQ youth and families. And they’d even allow county clerks to openly discriminate against LGBTQ couples seeking marriage licenses.

Today, students from Austin to Houston are rallying against these terrifying bills, and they need your support. Add your name right now to show these brave students that they’re not alone in this fight!

Together we stand!

Image result for texas gay