Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Our Stories Are Our Power: Businesswoman Kelly Cavenah

Above: Local businesswoman Kelly Cavenah outside her office building on Capitol Way today.

Our Stories Are Our Power: Businesswoman Kelly Cavenah

by Janine Unsoeld

At a recent strategy meeting in Olympia, Washington United for Marriage advocates urged local supporters to gather pledges for the approval of Referendum 74. The pledge card asks for contact information, and is just one way supporters seek to identify potential allies, volunteers, campaign donors and establish connections in our community.

“We have been able to defeat every attack on our rights and we’ll beat this too!” exclaimed Anna Schlect, co-chair of Capital City Pride and local gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) rights leader. “But it’s going to take work….We’ll have fun, build close relationships, and plan on winning,” she said.

The Washington United for Marriage campaign is supported by several organizations, including Equal Rights Washington, the Human Rights Campaign, the Service Employees International Union, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood Northwest, Legal Voice, and UFCW21, a union composed of grocery, retail and health workers.

Referendum supporters are mobilizing throughout the state, city by city, through door to door canvassing, phonebanking, community education, endorsements and fundraising. Locally, Referendum 74 supporters plan on being visible at community events such as Capital City Pride in June, and Lakefair in July.

Opponents to the marriage equality legislation signed in February by Governor Christine Gregoire were able to start collecting signatures against Referendum 74 on March 13. They will need 120,577 signatures, which they’ll likely reach soon. They have until June 6 to qualify for the ballot and are expected to deliver those signatures by the first week of June.

If the referendum passes in November, the first day gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender (GLBT) persons can be legally married in Washington would be in December.

Kelly Cavenah, and her partner Kim Vandewater, are anxiously awaiting that day to make their upcoming September wedding legal in the eyes of the state.

“Kim and I met about seven years ago, when I was 26, struggling with my identity in Seattle. Kim had just come out and we fell in love. It wasn’t the right time for us. I was out to my friends but not my mother and brother. It wasn’t the right time,” explained Cavenah.

“In 2007 my mom and I decided to move to Olympia to start a business. It was important to share with her who I am. I was so nervous about telling her – I was surprised about her support! Now we are active supporters in the GLBT community.”

“So, about two years ago, Kim and I reconnected. The love never left. It grew and it was our time to get together. I’m so proud and happy to say that in January she asked me for her hand in marriage. We’ll be married in the fall. So, like any relationship, we have our ups and downs and struggles, but we’re partners....”

Cavenah owns Home Instead Senior Care, a private duty non-medical home care agency for seniors. A franchise organization, the agency helps people stay in their homes for as long as possible by providing assistance such as companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping and errands. Duties also include personal care such as bathing, toileting and grooming.

“I have a staff of over 50 employees - I pay Labor and Industries, business and occupation taxes, and all state, local, and federal taxes. Our staff provides sustainability to the community – we work hard to provide quality services for our seniors.” Cavenah currently employs six staff members in her cramped Olympia downtown office and 50 caregivers who provide service to 65 clients.

Above: Kelly Cavanah, left, confers about a client with her Home Instead Senior Care office manager Jaime Robinson.

As past chair of the South Sound Alzheimer’s Council and previous board member of the Senior Action Network, Cavenah strives to educate the community about the senior community and their needs.

Cavenah is committed to helping GLBT elders in the South Sound community and helped co-found SAGE-Olympia. SAGE-Olympia, which she currently co-chairs with Anna Schlecht, is a multi-faceted gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender eldercare project for Thurston County. SAGE-Olympia’s mission is to promote the wellness of GLBT elders in the area with a range of referrals, services and social activities.

Cavenah continues with her story, saying she and Kim just bought a house in Lacey.

“As homeowners, we take weekend trips to Home Depot and Lowe’s, we pay our property taxes, which helps support local schools. So, I’m not that different from my mom…or any other average American. We’re a lot more similar than not.”

“And I’m a registered voter,” she adds for emphasis.

Bottom line, Kelly says, “I’m a dedicated partner and daughter…my point is, please don’t treat us as second class citizens….”

Her mother Bertha adds, “You never lose by loving. You always lose by holding back.”

For more information about the Washington United for Marriage campaign, go to www.WAunited.org or on Twitter: @WA4Marriage or on Facebook, www.facebook.com/WashingtonUnited.

For more information on local Referendum 74 organizing meetings or to collect pledge cards, contact Anna Schlect at annaschlect@gmail.com.

For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, go to www.homeinstead.com/658 or contact Jaime Robinson, Office Manager, at 570-0049. The office is located in the Evergreen Plaza Building at 711 Capitol Way South, Suite 707, Olympia.

For more information about SAGE-Olympia, go to www.sageolympia.org. The next SAGE-Olympia meeting is in May. Monthly meetings are open to the public.

Full Disclosure/FYI: Janine Unsoeld is a caregiver for seniors by profession and has not worked for Home Instead Senior Care, nor does she necessarily endorse the agency.

“Our Stories Are Our Power” is a periodic series of GLBTQ related stories by Janine Unsoeld at Little Hollywood, www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com.