Leader Spotlight: Liz Kirshner
Liz, who serves with our Connecticut chapter with Ellen Hart, is an example of the heart and soul of Free Mom Hugs. She not only volunteers with Connecticut, but also is a champion within our national organization. She volunteers with the chapter leaders committee, our IT committee and every other place where there is an opportunity.
Our organization is 99.3% volunteer ran and we would not have any success without Liz, she truly is a bright shining star at Free Mom Hugs.
Here is what Liz had to say when we asked her about herself:
I never had a “journey” so to speak. I was one of the lucky ones though I didn’t know it at the time. I grew up in a “gay affirming” household. We had honest, open conversations about anything and everything including sex, drugs, and rock and roll. My parents embraced everybody as long as they were considered “our kind of people”. Our kind of people meant they were our friends and family. They were truthful, supportive, smart, educated, funny, fun to be with, community minded, loving, accepting, and above all else, inclusive of all others. Skin color, religion, politics (at that time), sexual orientation and gender identity did not matter. It was what was on the inside that counted in our family.
I first learned about Free Mom Hugs when I saw an article on facebook about Sara being a stand Mom at weddings when their own mom wouldn’t be there. Then I learned about Free Mom Hugs and thought it was the greatest thing in the world. My co-leader Ellen, posted on facebook that we should get involved. Many people chimed in, but Ellen and I put our passion about people into action. We got in touch with National and in February of 2019, Ellen and I were on our way to leading the Connecticut chapter of Free Mom Hugs.
As I mentioned, I grew up in an affirming household never knowing anything different. I never had a “reason” to be part of FMH just the notion of love is love. There is not enough love in the world, so love whoever makes you happy. That was our unspoken and spoken mantra. I have had friends come out to me and did not know what to do but I did. I went straight to my parents and asked how we could fix it. Why was this a big deal? How could parents not love their kid based on who their child loved? It made no sense to me. My parents painstakingly had to explain to me why they could not “fix it”. All they could do was be there for my friends and guide them with love and understanding. So that’s what I did too. Somehow, I became a magnet to all people who needed to talk about coming out but had no place to go and no one to turn to. I never realized I was doing anything other than being the true definition of a friend.
That changed a little when my nephew came out to me. He is on his own journey finding his way one step at a time. I was visiting for his high school graduation and on the big day he brought down a bundle of clothes to show me. I expected to see just his cap and gown and I told him how proud I was of him that he was graduating and he said “NO LIZZIE…LOOK… IT’S a SKIRT!” I said, without missing a beat, well then you better change your shirt because it doesn’t match. So I guess he became my reason. He graduated and the next day we went shopping for clothes for him.
Being part of Free Mom Hugs is an honor. It is so easy for me to be there for others, much easier than being able to help myself these days. I know I will be fine. I am not so sure about some others who do not have the love and support of affirming families that my brother and I grew up in. My kids’ friends always found comfort and love in my presence and I miss having those kids being around. FMH is a way to channel my love and support to those that need it. I applied and was accepted to be on the Chapter Advisory Committee of Free Mom Hugs. It has been an amazing experience and I can’t wait to see where this will take us.
There have been a few events that we attended that have really impacted us. Ellen mentioned the Drag Queen Story hour at the Norwalk Public Library. I fear for those who are disregarded as people. I fear for their human rights and I fear for their safety. I fear for their loneliness. I fear for their lives. On the flip side, Free Mom Hugs-CT was honored through Llambda Legal and Connecticut Cares as the non-profit who will make a difference. We told our story, this story, and we received a Certificate of Special Recognition from US Senator Richard Blumenthal. We gained a lot of exposure which ultimately joined us with the Triangle Community Center, the pride center in Fairfield County in CT. They became our sponsor and we have all of their resources available at our fingertips.
We have had so much planned for this year. We have our signature bracelets being made all over the state to be given away when we can hug in person rather than through Zoom. Our calendar of events has increased. We are now a known entity. At the moment we are “thinking outside of the box” – being virtual. It’s a bit of a challenge, but we are so excited when we look forward to coming out on the other side of this. Imagine how sweet the HUGS will be when they can be in-person again!
If you want to volunteer with Liz and her team in Connecticut or anywhere for Free Mom Hugs, email us at [email protected]