Activist works for safe schools, coalition building in Genesee

By Jim Larkin

GENESEE COUNTY - Terri Dinsmore figures she has tacked about 4,000 miles on her car while doing volunteer work for the Genesee County PFLAG - not an easy thing to do when her income, since the former teacher left the Saginaw School District in December 2008, has been limited to whatever odd jobs she can get.

But there are important things that drive Dinsmore, who was elected the chapter's PFLAG president on March 14.

"I like to help other people who are struggling with issues," said Dinsmore, who takes over the seat that has been vacant since Allen Biles stepped down as president last year.

A PFLAG member since 2004, she has been the chapter's vice president since 2006 and has been perhaps its most visible member - serving on the Flint Out N About committee, doing presentations at Flint's numerous colleges and attending meetings of the Flint/Genesee County Hate Crimes Task Force.

She takes her commitment to the area's LGBT community seriously, noting that Genesee County's chapter also serves people in neighboring Shiawassee, Lapeer and Oakland counties, with the closest PFLAG chapters being in Livingston County and the Tri-Cities area of Saginaw, Midland and Bay City.

"I think it's important to have something like PFLAG for people to get support," said the 40-year-old Montrose area resident. "And for the younger people, it serves as a social outlet."

Dinsmore knows that well. She joined Genesee County's PFLAG because it was a good social outlet for her at a time when she didn't know of any other place to meet other gay people. Since then, she has championed numerous causes, with her goals as the new president being to strengthen and continue the work of the Genesee County Safe Schools Coalition, increase the membership from its current 14 paying members and reaching out to more middle school, high school and college students.

The chapter's monthly meetings are at 2 p.m. the second Sunday of every month at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint and include a speaker and confidential support groups for gay, transgendered and straight members. The ages range from high school students to senior citizens.

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