From the President: Education and Understanding is Key to Creating a Bright Future for All


Michael M. Parks

In our ongoing series addressing equity and inclusion, I’d like to take this opportunity to focus on local efforts and organizations working to create a better Dayton for our region’s LGBTQ+ citizens. This issue’s featured equity expert is Josh Stucky, a member of The Dayton Foundation’s Governing Board, proprietor of Square One Salon & Spas and cofounder of Rubi Girls, a nonprofit organization that supports LGBTQ+ initiatives. Josh, a Miami Valley native, is a well-known speaker on human rights and the LGBTQ+ community’s impact on the American way of life.

Rubi Girls has raised nearly $3 million for HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ+ causes since the troupe started in the 1980s, performing to sold-out audiences locally and beyond. What impact has this work had on the community?

I’m so proud to say that by the end of the year, Rubi Girls will have helped raise $3 million in donations since inception. In 2022, we distributed funds that benefited 70 nonprofits, contributing $150,000 to area charities. In addition, we award scholarships to local students through The Rubi Girls Scholarship Fund of The Dayton Foundation.

Beyond the fundraising, and more importantly, our work educates the public. Whether it was spreading awareness of the HIV crisis in the 1980s, the rights of LGBTQ+ in the 1990s, the importance of equity in the 2000s or currently fostering an understanding of all people, our impact has reached far and wide.


Josh Stucky

How is that possible? Rubi Girls began its mission in the 1980s using humor as an antidote for the HIV crisis. We used wigs, dresses and high heels in a funny way, making sure each show was poignant as well. We linked arms with all people, including individuals living with HIV or working with HIV patients, as well as their parents, friends, children – anyone who needed to feel better, happy or safe. Through our early work, we established ourselves as a group that wanted to help others. Our dollars, large or small, go to help others. This fact startles folks. They can’t believe that for 40 years, this group continues to do whatever it takes to give to people in need. It takes years to build trust, and we’re fortunate to be in Dayton, a city that embraces diversity and ingenuity, where people love us and fully understand our mission.

What resources are available for local organizations and individuals who want to get involved and educate themselves about LGBTQ+ issues?

There are quite a few in our great city. PFLAG is for parents and friends of the LGBTQ+ community. Gender Spectrum provides a plethora of information, and The Trevor Project is a national organization offering intervention for families struggling with LGBTQ+ issues. David’s Place, which Rubi Girls helped get off the ground, is housed at Daybreak and gives LGBTQ+ youth a safe and inclusive space. This is so important, as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ and are at a higher risk of becoming victims of violence, trafficking and housing discrimination.

Other organizations providing resources include Equitas Health, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ and HIV/AIDS-serving organizations, and The Greater Dayton LGBT Center, which provides a variety of services and information.

How has Greater Dayton become more inclusive? What work remains, and what is the first step?

In many ways, Dayton is ahead of the curve. Our local government has taken steps to provide rights to the LGBTQ+ community long before other communities. I think we’re the “right-sized city.” There is a sense of family here. People know each other or know someone who knows someone, which lends itself to community. It takes a village, and we have a strong one.

…I am confident as we continue to educate and unlock misunderstandings about the LGBTQ+ community, we’ll see real change and a future that looks bright for all people.
– Josh Stucky, Governing Board member

As for inclusion, our region’s history speaks volumes. An early HIV warrior and cofounder of the Dayton Area AIDS Task Force, Dr. Robert Brandt, and Ohio’s first elected LGBTQ+ judge, Mary Wiseman, are Dayton natives. The longest-running LGBTQ+ television show in American history, Harper’s Bazzaroworld, is filmed here. They are pioneers well ahead of the curve, and that allows others to walk proudly in their footsteps.

In 2015, Dayton was designated the Queerest City in America, according to Advocate Magazine. Inclusion is in our fabric. With places like David’s Place and the new Longfellow Commons Community for LGBTQ+ retirees (see page 7), Dayton is leading in outreach to all age groups. This shows real commitment from city leaders and private businesses to make LGBTQ+ a part of everyday living.

Of course, much work remains. We’re facing some headwinds. Often it’s one step forward, one step back. But I am confident as we continue to educate and unlock misunderstandings about the LGBTQ+ community, we’ll see real change and a future that looks bright for all people.

Thank You

I want to extend my sincerest gratitude and well wishes to my friend and colleague Joe Baldasare, who is retiring after 22 years of dedicated and thoughtful service to The Dayton Foundation. Read more on page 4 about Joe and his remarkable career of helping people help others and making our community a better place to live. Thank you, Joe!