Montclair Magazine May 2022 - Page 10

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Former executive director of GLAAD helps smaller nonprofits thrive WRITTEN BY STEPHANIE NODA

While many people think of local leaders as being the mayor or amember of the town council , Joan Garry sees nonprofit organizers asunsung local heroes . “ It is the nonprofit sector that makes atown acommunity ,” she says .

She speaks from experience . AMontclair resident , Garry is a former executive director ofthe Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation ( GLAAD ) and creator of the Nonprofit Leadership Lab , an online program that aims to give small nonprofits what they need to make adifference in the areas where they ’ re based .
Together with her podcast , book , blog and online membership site , Garry is committed tohelping small nonprofits find ways to succeed . “ I ’ m in the business of helping the helpers ,” she says . Here are 8things to know about Joan Garry .
SHE GOT HER START IN THE TELEVISION WORLD , BUT WANTED MORE . Garry landed a job after college working on the management team that launched MTV in 1981 . She eventually worked at Showtime , building a pay-per-view joint venture with Don King Productions to broadcast boxing events .
While working at this new job , however , she started to believe that there was more she could do to have
a “ bit more impact on the world .”
“ I came out of this world of startup , but then I was just really searching for a kind of connection to some sort of purpose ,” says Garry .
FIGHTING FOR HER RIGHTS TO ADOPT HER DAUGHTER CHANGED HER LIFE . While Garry was rethinking her career , she became involved in a situation that would change the trajectory of her life . Since there was no marriage equality in the 1980s and 1990s , she was considered a “ legal stranger ” to her and her wife ’ s daughter .
In 1993 , Joan and her wife , Eileen Opatut , pursued a New Jersey court
case that would allow them to become the first lesbian couple in the state to have second-parent adoption rights .“ It was a precedent-setting case in the state and garnered alot of press ,” says Garry . “ It was kind of an ‘ aha !’ moment for me , that one person can really make a difference since as aresult of our lengthy case , gay couples throughout the state were simply able to file paperwork to do what it took us years todo .”
HER NONPROFIT CAREER BEGAN WHEN SHE WORKED FOR LGBTQ RIGHTS . Her experience inspired her to run GLAAD , one of the largest LGBTQ organizations in the country . One of her goals as executive director was focusing on how media tells the story of LGBTQ people ’ s lives , she says .
“ Finding that you can actually have an impact in your personal life and feeling alack of purpose in my professional life , I saw those things intersecting with a career change into the nonprofit space ,” says Garry . At the time , she had no nonprofit or fundraising experience .
Garry loved the work the organization was able to do for the LGBTQ community , and stayed at GLAAD for 10 years . She loved the notion that you can get paid tomake a difference in the world . She felt it was important to do something that helped make the world a better place for kids , especially kids of lesbian moms .