Back in 1992, a fresh-faced Chris Ross was looking for a way to give back and support Denver’s queer community. The AIDS epidemic had plagued the community for more than a decade and was showing very few signs of regression — gay men were still suffering nationwide. This brought Chris to the doorstep of Colorado AIDS Project, where he volunteered as a buddy.
Through the buddy program, Chris underwent training before visiting a Korean man living with AIDS every, single week. The two would talk, laugh, and share while Chris transported him to doctor’s appointments, grocery stores, or just around the city. Most importantly, Chris was there for him when no one else was. Although small, it was one of his first acts of selflessness, which would continue on for decades in Denver.
“He really didn’t know a lot of english, but that didn’t stop us from communicating,” Chris said. “I knew that I was one of the only people — if not the only one — to come see him. He didn’t speak to his family. He didn’t have friends. I was all that he had. It really opened my eyes to how privileged I was and how I need to use that to help other people.”
Chris left the buddy program when he moved to Chicago for five years. But his memories of Denver’s community dragged him out of the Windy City, across the Midwest, and into the Rocky Mountain Range once again. He wasted no time diving back into his activism.
He started answering phones at the Center on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon. While he was volunteering, the Center started looking for a new bank. Ross’s position as the senior manager of U.S. Bank lead to his involvement, serving as Chair of Development on the Center’s board.
Chris has been an invaluable member of the Center for more than ten years. Whether he was serving as an important member on the board of directors or simply volunteering his time, Chris has continually proved his loyalty to Denver queers.
After a two-year term, Chris recently stepped down as co-chair of the Center’s board, but he will continue to serve on the board for two more years. He is truly a beacon of hope, working tirelessly to help where he can.
During his five years on the board, Chris’ influence has spread throughout the Center’s many programs, including RANGE counselling and SAGE.
Seniors and Advocacy for GLBT Elders, SAGE, offers activities and events that focus on health, housing, legal and financial planning, legacy, and social connection for LGBTQ persons over the age of 50.
Retention Advancement and Non-Discrimination of GBLT Employees, RANGE, counseling provides a strategic training and consultation program to meet the unique human resources needs of corporations and government entities seeking to create or expand their diversity and inclusiveness initiatives related to LGBTQ employees. Chris was one of the driving forces to get this new program up and running.
It started when a local business reached out to the Center and asked for counseling on how to make a transgender employee feel safe and welcome as she transitioned at work. The Center went in ready and willing to share their knowledge.
“Once we were finished, the owner told us that we should be doing this on a regular basis,” Chris said. “We had helped him and the rest of his employees with inclusion as well as broadening their knowledge of trans rights and issues. So we ran with the idea, and it’s been going for about two years.”
On top of contributing to these programs, Chris brought many businesses and people to the Center, whether they were there to donate or to receive assistance from the number of programs the Center offers.
“It’s difficult to imagine what the program would be like without Chris’ wise counsel,” Rex Fuller, the Center’s VP of Communications, said.
Throughout the years Chris has dedicated his time to advocating for the community. The work and counsel he’s given the Center has undoubtedly improved the lives of many people, whether directly or indirectly.
“You know, when you stop and converse with those in need at the Center, it’s amazing how loving and accepting they are — and they really just need love and acceptance in return,” Chris said. “Meeting people and seeing the struggles they endured for us, it’s really inspiring.”
Chris plans to draw inspiration from his forebears to continue advocating for the queer community. He continues to draw support for the Center from local business and continues to keep a close eye on RANGE and help it grow.