What started out as social media page to be a happy space on the internet has evolved over the past decade to become a center that gives the Dayton region a lending hand through its food pantry, as well as a place for people to find community.
“We fill in the voids,” said Michael Knote, executive director and founder of Have a Gay Day. Knote, who was nominated as a Dayton Community Gem, operates Have a Gay Day’s community center and food pantry as a volunteer while also maintaining a full-time job and taking care of his parents.
“We started the Facebook page Feb. 5, 2012. It is the largest 501c3 LGBT nonprofit on Facebook. We have just over 1.45 million people that follow us with a global reach of 18 (million) and 24 million a month,” Knote said.
Have a Gay Day was initially created to be a fun, happy space on the internet, but it grew into a charity in 2014-2015. One of the first causes they raised funds for was $17,000 for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention in memory of Jamey Rodemeyer, a teenager who died by suicide in 2011 in Buffalo, N.Y. Rodemeyer faced severe bullying after being open about his sexuality.
The organization had its first physical space in the KeyBank tower before eventually opening its current space on Needmore Road, which includes a food pantry and gathering space. They are the only food pantry open on Sundays, and they are also the only food pantry that delivers to homes in Montgomery County, Knote said.
“Our main source of funding comes to our Facebook page, people doing birthday fundraisers things like that, and a lot of different people that believe in the work that we do,” Knote said.
In addition to their food pantry and community center, they also give out pet food, personal care items, and household cleaning supplies. They also help people through emergency housing, and their next big goal is to build spaces to address homelessness.
“We are eventually looking to purchase property and build monolithic dome homes for emergency housing,” Knote said. “We’ve done a little bit of everything. We’ve put up billboards across the country in support of the LGBT community. We’ve helped people escape countries. We’ve provided transportation to people in need.”
It’s all of Knote’s work that inspired Leslie Loper to nominate him as a Dayton Community Gem.
“He puts on educational and other events in the community,” Loper said. “Michael is a visible presence at many events. He has many connections, is an incredible fundraiser and has won many awards. Amazingly, he does all this as a volunteer and works a full time job. Michael Knote is an inspiring human being who deserves to be recognized for all the good he does in the community and in the world.”
The number of families Have a Gay Day helps changes, but they recently helped approximately 125 families a week in July. Knote said they don’t typically advertise, and people mostly find them through word of mouth.
“Instead of having just a focus on one specific part of the community, we like to kind of do everything in an inclusive kind of a way. Our door’s open for anyone that’s in need,” Knote said. “We’ve definitely grown as far as how many people we serve and how many people we see.”
Knote said getting nominated as a Community Gem makes him feel seen for the work he’s doing through Have a Gay Day, but he also thanked others in the community who might not be getting recognized for their work in the community for continuing to do good.
“I think to be recognized for doing good always feels a little bit different because I’m just trying to do good. I’m trying to make a difference wherever I can,” Knote said. “For me to be recognized, I hope it will inspire someone to think a little bit out of the box to try fill in voids of service, to try to make a difference, not only in their community, but in their daily life.”