Deanna Bednarz, Caregiver Wellness Coordinator
Deanna Bednarz is the Caregiver Wellness Coordinator for the NYSDOH Underserved Communities Initiative to identify care givers and care receivers of people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia in LGBTQ communities. Before beginning her work at the Pride Center in 2017 she attended Indiana University for her Undergraduate Business Degree in 2006. She was in sales for a greater part of her professional career. Due to her competitive edge and drive to succeed she was always a top performer. In her personal time began volunteering at the Alzheimer’s Association in 2010. As she slowly got more involved in her volunteer work, her role evolved at the Alzheimer’s Association into that of leadership position. She co-chaired the Blondes vs Brunettes from 2013 to 2016 and helped raise $400,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association of WNY. Her work with Blondes vs. Brunettes ignited her passion for the cause as well as being part of the LGBTQ community, which ultimately lead to her career transition here at the Pride Center. Deanna has always had an affinity towards helping others so this is the perfect place for her to be. In her free time Deanna has a photography business called Capture Life by Deanna, photography is another passion of hers. Some of her favorite things to do include: Wake up early on a Sunday, turn on Frank Sinatra and make a big pot of Sunday sauce for family and loved ones. She loves to garden, travel, read, snuggling up to her 10lb dog Bean (who never leaves her side) and spend time with her partner Colleen and her daughter Emma
Matthew Crehan Higgins, Senior Director
Matthew Crehan Higgins joined the Pride Center in September 2014 after working at the Erie County Medical Center in Immunodeficiency Services for twelve years, starting as a Temporary Data Entry Operator in 2002. He worked as an HIV Training Assistant, Medical Social Worker, and Program Coordinator before being named Program Manager in September 2013. Beginning in 2004, he served as LGBT community liaison for the election campaign of Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY26. As a playwright he has written or co-written six plays, all produced by Buffalo United Artists including Confessions - the most honored offering at the 2004 National Gay and Lesbian Theatre Festival. Favorite onstage experiences include playing Ned Weeks in Larry Kramer’s landmark The Normal Heart and roles in F*cking Men, The Irish Curse, What I Did Last Summer, Secrets of the Trade, and Naked Boys Singing!. He wrote the column “Life Diaries” for abOUT magazine from 2003 through 2007, reaching readers in Western/Central New York and Lower Ontario. For three years, he was a co-host of the top rated GLBT comedy podcast Cocktails and Cream Puffs. He lives on the other side of the SkyWay with partner Ken. He can juggle, while at the same time eating an apple and enjoys listening to Stevie Nicks albums on vinyl.
Siobhan Fitzgerald-Matson, Transgender Wellness Coordinator
Siobhan “Shevy” Fitzgerald-Matson is the Transgender Wellness Coordinator for the Transgender Health Initiative (THI) and has been with the Pride Center since October, 2012. Siobhan oversees the THI Program and co-facilitates the TransGeneration Support Group for individuals who identify as transgender, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming. Siobhan received their BA in Sociology and Gender and Sexuality Studies from St. Lawrence University in 2010. Previously they worked with Autism Services Inc. as a Direct Support Professional, and also acted as the Coordinator for Economic Development at Canisius College through the AmeriCorps VISTA Program. They are currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Social Work at SUNY Buffalo, and hope to use this degree to become a gender identity counselor able to conduct mental health assessments for Hormone Replacement Therapy for transgender-identified people. Siobhan’s long-term dream is to one day establish a performance art sleepaway camp for trans* and genderqueer youth. In their free time, Siobhan enjoys singing and playing guitar in a folk-fusion band called Shevy & the Pulse which plays at various venues around the WNY area.
Steve Jagord, LGBTQ Field Educator
Steve Jagord is an LGBTQ Field Educator, bringing cultural competency trainings and tailored speaking engagements to businesses and organizations throughout the area. In the coming months, he will also be developing new reference materials for groups to retain on site after presentations have been delivered – or for anyone who requests the info. Steve came to the Pride Center following a four-year stint as editor of a local community newspaper. Prior to that, he worked in human services and still does volunteer work with members of the developmentally disabled community. In his spare time, Steve also volunteers for embrace Western New York – another LGBT-focused nonprofit based in Buffalo – serving on the organization’s public relations committee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College and a master’s degree in integrated marketing and communications from St. Bonaventure University. Steve and his husband, Patrick, have two yellow labs at home and enjoy summer road trips for concerts.
James Konidis, Test Counselor
James “Jimi” Konidis comes to the Pride Center family after being different people on and off the stage. Jimi received a B.A. in Theatre Arts at Buffalo State College, where he had the privilege of performing Twelfth Night and The Shape of Things. With Buffalo United Artists, he was featured in the plays In Gabriel’s Kitchen and F*cking Men. He also appeared in The New Phoenix Theatre’s production of All Quiet on the Western Front. When not on stage he has served as a flight attendant, banker, bartender, waiter, pet hotel employee, cleaning business proprietor, landscaper, and volunteer. Though he has had many roles in his life, he is most proud of his work at the Pride Center.
Damian Mordecai, Director of Engagement & Education
Damian has worked in social justice and community building for over 10 years. Currently serving as the Director of Engagement & Education, Damian has spent nearly a decade heading many of the Pride Center’s innovative services and supportive programs; Center Support, Pride Works, Center Arts & Culture, and the Silver Pride Project. He has provided LGBTQ Cultural Competency trainings to more than 250 businesses and organizations to date. Additionally, he has provided trainings for government and law enforcement officials including the FBI, U.S. Homeland Security, and the Buffalo Police Department. Since 2014, he has been training first-year medical students at the UB School of Biomedical Sciences on LGBTQ Health Disparities. Damian also has a passion for creativity and digital arts. He enjoys using his creative skills to benefit the community and is responsible for the Pride Center’s marketing materials including posters, postcards, brochures, etc. In the Spring of 2016, Damian took the lead on an inititve that provides a comprehensive range of HIV/STD/HCV prevention interventions and related services for young gay men and young men who have sex with men.
Shawn Moultrie, Transgender Wellness Specialist
Shawn Moultrie graduated from Buffalo State College with a dual bachelor’s degree in the fields of Applied Sociology and Psychology and began working for the Pride Center under the Transgender Health Initiative (THI) in 2013. Shawn identifies as being both a pansexual and a genderqueer/ gender non-conforming individual (with preferred pronouns of “they”, “them”, and “theirs”, unless in drag) and has always been known as a “helper”, making the Trans* Wellness Specialist position at the Pride Center a great fit for them. Shawn works with the other members of THI (peers and staff) conducting bar outreach, tabling at local events, and helping trans* individuals find the resources they may need in their lives. Outside of the Pride Center and THI, Shawn has gained a following through the art of drag as the drag king/male impersonator, Fly-Guy Shawn (Libido) and has been performing in the Buffalo area for more than 6 years now (though he usually only performs on special occasions in the Buffalo area). Fly-Guy Shawn also enjoys frequently performing in Rochester, where he has made new friends and even more new fans. Shawn has brought many of their Western New York trans* and drag friends and family in contact with health care providers, insurance companies, and other resources that they have needed, but never knew how or where to find them. Shawn works hard to not only bring smiles to/brighten up the day of those around them while entertaining onstage, but off the stage as well. When Shawn is not at work for the Pride Center, or out performing as Fly-Guy Shawn, they like to hang out with/go on countless adventures with their “drag husband” Spike Flohr, and spend time with their dog Mommaz.
Rachel Parrino, Administrative Assistant
Rachel joined the Pride Center in January 2017 after over 15 years handcrafting caffeinated beverages. Born and raised in western NY, she began her work with Having Empowered Leaders as Peers (HELP) in high school to help to spread awareness of HIV risk factors. While attending SUNY at Buffalo for her BA in Psychology, she became involved with the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Alliance (LGBTA), being voted onto the executive board and then as president for two years. While at UB she also began educational programming and support groups and became a founding student representative of the Diversity Committee’s Gender and Sexual Orientation sub-committee. Outside of the center, you can find her working behind the scenes with the Brazen Faced Varlets, a local, feminist theater company, at the park with her springer spaniel poodle, Maggie, or checking out the plethora of new restaurants in the area.
Cameron Schraufstetter, Transgender Wellness Specialist
Cameron Schraufstetter, Trans* Wellness Specialist, began his journey at the Pride Center in the summer of 2014, as the Peer Educator for the Transgender Health Initiative (THI). He is also currently employed at Gay and Lesbian Youth Services as a Youth Mentor; and also sings with the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus. Cameron has also completed the New Attitudes in Love and Sex (NAILS) Program, and works to increase awareness about HIV - promoting safer sex and routine testing. Cameron has been a long-time activist in the LGBT community, dating back to founding the Gay-Straight Alliance at his former high school. It has been a long time dream of Cameron’s to work with, and aid the LGBT community. Even when Cameron is not working, he never shies away from an opportunity to help people and direct them towards services.
Bennett Shepilov, Young Men's Wellness Specialist
Bennett Shepilov Outreach Specialist for the Transgender Health Initiative. The longest term member of the THI team, he facilitates Trans*Generation and founded/facilitates Vogue for Your Life and Kiki Nights. Before moving to Buffalo, he lived in Pittsburgh, PA where he attended Robert Morris University while working on a 5 year study for gay men at the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. Giving all of his live to public service Bennett, was conferred the Combat Action Award and was knighted by the 56th Army Striker Brigade. He is currently studying to be a public educator. He enjoys his hot tub and not having pets.