Leader Spotlight: Tara Van Nostrand

Tara works so hard for our Arkansas chapter. She is one of our leaders who is always thinking outside the box. She is eager to learn and is quick to jump in and help anyone else in our organization who needs an idea or a helping hand.

We asked Tara to answer some questions and I hope you like learning about Tara as much as I did!

Tell us about your journey and how you came to a place of support for the LGBTQIA+ community.
I grew up a Baptist and it was really hard for me to listen to what they were saying about the LGBTQ community.  My best friend was gay and I had a cousin who was a lesbian. So, I just decided to ignore what I was taught and go with my heart which always does the right thing if I listen to it.  I am also very lucky to have two father-in-laws and my son loves them very much.

If you have an LGBTQIA+ child, your “reason”, tell us about them, him, or her. I do not have a child in the community, but I have several friends and family members who I have supported my whole life.

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your “reason” for getting involved in advocacy work? People are cruel. I know because I grew up being made fun of for being ugly and teachers picked on me for my learning disabilities. I saw my best friend get his car shoe polished with the “F” word for being gay and I thought something needed to be done. I have always been a fighter.

What makes you proud to be their mama? I teach my son to go with his heart and I always ask him when we go to events if he has any questions because I want him to know how to be a good person and love people like I do.  He has stood up for a friend who came out Pansexual as a 11-year-old.  When his friend was getting picked on, my son Ethan stood up for him.  I am very proud of who my son is and I hope he will continue being a big-hearted man.

When did you first hear about Free Mom Hugs and what motivated you to get involved as a volunteer for the organization?  I saw a post on Facebook and while I don’t have an LGBTQIA+ child I do have two father-in-laws. They said they would love to have me and the rest is history. I love hugging and my son is a teenager now and hates to be hugged.  So, I decided to take my hugs to someone who really needs them.  I know that sounds like a silly reason, but it just warms my heart to see how just one hug helps a person in the community so much.  I am blessed to be a part of this.

What excites you most about being involved with FMH? I get to meet new friends and be a part of something that is so needed in the world today.  I love being able to make a person feel loved or safe even if it is only for one day.

What brings you the most joy? Knowing that someone feels like they are not alone in the world. I felt invisible in my own home, so I know how that feels. I just want them to feel loved and supported and to know they are never alone because Free Mom Hugs – Arkansas will always be there 🙂

Tell us about some of the exciting things the chapter in your state is working on.  I have someone calling me to set up a Drag Queen Story Hour in Northwest Arkansas and I am very excited.  Also, I am working on helping a friend of mine continue to do her Rogers Transgender Support Group. We have a lot of people who have been coming and right now I am working on doing an online group to check in with them to see how they are doing.

Is there anything else we need to know about you and what makes you, you?  I love singing, dancing and just being fun and silly.  I am very kind hearted because my dad was the same way.  He may have not agreed with what I am doing with FMH, but he would not be upset that I was helping people either.  He taught me to do what I feel is right, not what everyone else thinks is right. I also love playing Magic the Gathering and I get a lot of compliments when I wear my FMH t-shirt so I know we are doing great work down here.

If you want to be a part of Tara’s Arkansas group or any of our chapters, email us at [email protected]

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