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Robust belief in inclusion brings globe trotter to West End QMUNITY

Dara Parker is a community planner with a background in diversity and inclusion and decades of experience working in non-profits and local government.

Dara Parker is a community planner with a background in diversity and inclusion and decades of experience working in non-profits and local government. The Toronto native began her career working in international development and has travelled to over 45 countries.

Her youth engagement work in Lesotho, Africa inspired her to pursue a master's degree in planning at the University of B.C., with a focus on how to build inclusive cities. Parker now hopes her vast social policy experience-with a focus on youth, seniors, newcomers to Canada and longtime immigrants-will serve her well as the new executive director of QMUNITY, B.C.'s queer resource centre.

At the helm since May, Parker fronts an organization some critics say is no longer relevant to the queer community. The UBC grad disagrees, citing the 35,000 clients the West End facility sees annually using its core services. Her immediate plans include consultation on community priorities and, like many organizations, looking to diversify its funding strategies to ensure a sustainable financial future. She will also work to identify a new and accessible home to accommodate the organization's growth, something that has eluded her predecessors, .

What's QMUNITY?

QMUNITY is an umbrella organization that serves queer individuals and their communities through community programming, training and advocacy. Our team of skilled professionals delivers a variety of vital social services and programs reaching 35,000 people annually. We were founded in 1979 and bring 33 years of experience creating and advocating for safe spaces for LGBTQ people. Our incredible staff, board and volunteers are the heart of the organization.

What attracted you to the position?

Everything. The opportunity to lead a strong organization with a robust history delivering relevant and vital services was a no-brainer. The fact that our work is in the human rights sector in an area that is close to my heart, made it that much more exciting.

Biggest challenge?

QMUNITY has a very broad mandate and a very small budget. As the unique LGBTQ umbrella organization in B.C., we need to increase our resources in order to be able to adequately respond to the identified needs of the community.

Biggest success?

Successfully engaging 35,000 people annually through our core services.

Biggest setback?

We have outgrown our capacity and require a bigger space to house all of our staff and programs. We don't have basic amenities such as a kitchen for our drop-in groups.

What does success look like?

A world free from homophobia and transphobia; where people feel safe and comfortable to be their full and true selves.

Tell us about Stack the Rack?

As mentioned, funding is always a priority. Stack the Rack is our signature fundraiser, a fabulous wine tasting and shopping event with delectable food pairings, show tunes, and exciting live and silent auctions (and thank you for agreeing to emcee). It's Oct. 1 at Boneta's Event Space. Tickets are $165 with $50 going towards a gift certificate for wine and $85 charitable tax receipt from QMUNITY.

One lesson you'd love to give others?

Embrace difference-it makes life so much more interesting.

One thing you wish Vancouverites would stop whining about?

Bike lanes. They're fantastic! Favourite pastime?

Right now it's playing volleyball. I love it. Favourite sports team?

I have no interest in professional sports, but I was very inspired by the Canadian women's soccer team during the Olympics. They are such incredible athletes and I love what they've done for women's sports! Who inspires you?

Stephen Lewis. His tireless dedication to fighting poverty both at home and abroad, and his ability to connect to an audience through storytelling is humbling and inspiring.

Who bugs you?

Stephen Harper. I have yet to find a common point of agreement and his methodic dismantling of Canadian democratic processes terrifies me.

Local person you most admire?

One of my mentors is my co-president of the United Nations Association in Canada Board, Patsy George. Patsy is a retired social worker who is the former director of Multiculturalism BC. She has dedicated her entire life to the social services, and empowering marginalized groups. At 70, she has more energy than most 30-year-olds I know, and she is fiercely committed to a variety of volunteer causes. That being said, she always has time for a chat with a young person looking for career guidance, or a newcomer to Canada. She leads by example and I aspire to be like her.

If you could be any celebrity?

Tina Fey. She may be the funniest person alive.

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