Getting off on Good Behavior

The holidays are a time of giving, and a lot of LGBT organizations have gotten into the spirit.

The Burgh Bears, a non-profit social group for bears (burly men) and their admirers, was created to promote both social and recreational activities. The organization is involved in fundraising for the community. Its members aren’t all just from Pittsburgh.

Lee Volk, the group’s president, said, “We have members from West Virginia, Ohio and some as far away as Toronto, Canada.

Every year the Burgh Bears have run charity events for a variety of worthy sources. For years, the group lived up to its namesake and donated money to the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium by raising money for Rocky the Kodiak bear.

Lee said, “We were raising money for the bear in the Pittsburgh Zoo until he died.” Rocky died in August of 2010. The Kodiak bear was twenty-eight.

The group moved on to other charitable causes. It has given to the GLCC and Shepherd Wellness. And have held a variety of events at the Blue Moon, Donny’s/Leather Central, and elsewhere.

This year, the Burgh Bears are having another event to raise money. It’s an event that isn’t really an event. Lee said, “We’re making it easy on our members this year. They don’t even have to leave the house to participate.”

He added, “It’s been really costly to hold group events during the economic downturn. IBR [International Bear Rendezvous], one of the largest bear events in the country, had to suspend operations.”

In 2011 the Bears of San Francisco made a decision to end their biggest party. The organization had raised over $50,000 for charitable organizations since its inception in 1994 by holding the International Bear Rendezvous, a huge party for bears, cubs, otters, chasers and anyone who identified with the scruffier members of the gay and lesbian community. The expense of running the event became too costly as fewer members attended.

The Burgh Bears came up with a solution to the attendance problem for their fundraising opportunity this year.

Instead of getting dressed for a blacktie event, the Burgh Bears are asking its members to donate from the comfort of their homes via PayPal for the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. PATF is dedicated to supporting and empowering all individuals living with HIV/AIDS and preventing the spread of the infection.

You can contribute to PATF on your own, or join the bears, cubs, chasers, et al. and donate through their site, here; www.burghbears.org/bearmaul/patf. Deadline is December 15.

Giving and Receiving

There are a variety of ways to give back in the LGBT community. Here are just a few:

Each month, Gay for Good Pittsburgh selects a different non-profit and recruits folks to donate their time to a community service project. Their goals are to foster and promote a spirit of positive, enthusiastic camaraderie both within the LGBT community and toward their partner organizations. For the third year in a row, the G4G members will volunteer at the Shepherd Wellness Community’s annual “Cool Yule” dinner held December 6, at the First United Methodist Church.

The women at iCandy are dancing and donating. On November 29, the ladies will hold the “Black Friday Bundle Up Benefit” at Cruze Bar to benefit the GLCC. In addition to a $5 cover charge, iCandy is asking revelers to bring new or gently worn blankets or outerwear to the door to benefit the homeless. In the past, iCandy Ladies Dance parties have raised money for the Animal Rescue League and a variety of local charities.

The Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh is always looking for new volunteers. If you’ve been searching for a way to give back to your community, support equality in the area, or meet a diverse and talented group of people, be sure to sign up for one of their upcoming volunteer orientations. For additional info, contact 412.322.2800 x 7002 or mmartin@deltafoundation.us.

Santa Suits provided by Spotlight Costumes Modeled by DJ Wiggins and William Faust

Michael Buzzelli is a stand-up comedian and sit-down author. As a comedian, he has performed all around the country, most notably, the Ice House, the Comedy Store and the Improv in Los Angeles. As a writer, Michael Buzzelli has been published in a variety of websites, magazines and newspapers. He is a theater and arts critic for 'Burgh Vivant,’ Pittsburgh's online cultural talk magazine. He is also a Moth Grand Slam storyteller and actor. His books, "Below Average Genius," a collection of essays culled from his weekly humor column in the Observer-Reporter, and his romantic comedy,  “All I Want for Christmas," are on sale at Amazon.com. He is working on a LGBTQ romantic comedy called, “Why I Hate My Friends.” You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. (He / Him / His)