South Central Minnesota Pride is proud to dedicate the 2010 Pridefest to Jody Swanson, a devoted ally to LGBT people in this area. “I just happened to be the one standing here,” Jody states humbly. But her contributions have actually made her an exemplary friend to this community.
Jody recalls that in 1998, she read that Matthew Shepard—a young man who identified as gay—was tortured and murdered in Wyoming. She remembers, “It was chilling, and at that time I was sending my second son off to college.” Jody hoped that the world would be a safe and accepting place.
In 2002, Jody read another article, this time in a local paper. “A group of young people wanted to create a family event, with children’s activities, and a church service,” which referred to the first-ever South Central Minnesota Pridefest. Jody saw this as an opportunity to support the LGBT community: “There was a number to call, I called it and I sent my first check.” So began Jody’s generous involvement with Pridefest. Her accounting firm, Swanson Hinsch & Co has been a sponsor and participant every year since.
“The reality is that I can remember a time, facilitating a festival planning meeting, with less than a hundred bucks in our bank account” says co-chair Jessica Flatequal. “I remember sadly thinking, maybe we can’t have the festival this year because we couldn’t meet our expenses. The next day in the mailbox, there was a check from Swanson Hinsch & Co., that would save the day, and allow us to move forward with our work. Jody’s generosity, support, advice, and advocacy have been unwavering over the years, and our committee is proud to recognize her commitment to our community.”
Jody believes it is important for all allies to visibly and actively support movements that strive for a society in which all members are protected and given equal rights under the law. She sees Mankato Pridefest as a chance to honor LGBT people as a crucial part of the community as a whole. “They’re not second class citizens. They are FIRST CLASS. [Pridefest] is a stand that I want to take, and not anonymously. My family and my business are behind it.”
Jody, her partner of 33 years Kevin, and family dog Radar enjoy marching in the Pride Parade and attending the festival.
Jody Swanson believes that society’s hostility toward LGBT individuals hurts us all. A great deal of progress still needs to be made to create social structures where everyone is safe and valued. Pridefest is a way of saying, “We welcome, accept and celebrate the brilliant and caring LGBT community. Mankato needs and wants you!”