Last week, I received an email from the VP of The Community Center (a place for the LGBT people of Boise to gather for their groups, clubs, or entertainment) saying that I had been nominated for the Willow(Community Volunteer) Award–to the LGBT individual in a non-leadership role for community service.  The actual nomination read:

Martha Spiva–Martha has been working with a.l.p.h.a. as a volunteer for several years, planning the Idaho Women’s Retreat for 2 years now, helping out with Forever Red, and bringing in new partners.  She also works with the Girl Scouts and a number of other groups as a volunteer.  she is a great representative of the queer community.

I was floored, shocked, surprised, but most of all honored!  As it turns out, Duane Quintana the Executive Director of a.l.p.h.a. (Allies Linked for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS) nominated me.  He later told me that he believed I was a great example of the “queer community” (as a bisexual woman) who volunteers not just in the “gay community” but in the Boise community at large.

While it is true, I do volunteer for several different organizations, I never really thought about how much I volunteer (except for on those exhausting weeks where it feels like I don’t have time for everything).  It is just what I do.  My life is dedicated to being of service.

When I was told that I was nominated, I cried.  I know that for those of you who know me, the fact that I cried is NOT a shocker.  I cry at everything.  But this was different because of where this award is coming from.  I realized that I had come full circle.

Just before we moved away from Phoenix, Arizona, I was just starting to “come out” as bisexual.  Some people accepted me like “Whats the big deal?”.  Yet other’s who accepted me at first threatened to throw it in my face later.  See, I was a volunteer for the Cub Scouts (totally homophobic organization and does NOT allow anything other than straight people to be leaders.)  I was also on the board of my child’s school Family Teacher Organization.  I was a pillar in my community and well-known.  When I finally pulled my children out of Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, my “friend” took this personally and threatened to “out” me to all of the parents at our children’s school.  Shortly after that, my husband’s company moved us to Boise, Idaho.

I decided that when we moved to Boise, I was going to live my life “out of the closet”.  Yes, I’m married; yes, I’m bisexual.  The first thing I did was look for a LGBT community center, and I found it.  They were amazingly welcoming.  I started attending a group called Your Family Friends and Neighbors.  Looking to get my kids involved in something, I attended the youth group there. I also attended the women’s Halloween dance.  Everything was going great until a lesbian woman at the dance found out that I was married & bisexual, and she shunned me.  I then gave up on being part of the LGBT community.  I did find other people who loved and accepted me just the way I am, and continued on with my life.  We love it here in Boise!

Eventually, I got involved with a.l.p.h.a.  I had heard about the organization from my massage clients and from my son’s friends who volunteered there while she was in high school.  But it wasn’t until one of my husband’s friends contacted me to ask me to do massages for the Idaho Women’s Retreat (for women living with HIV/AIDS) that I really got involved.  I ended up running the retreat and getting involved with a.l.p.h.a. in other ways….like condom raids, teaching compassion classes, planning Forever Red (the Award Banquet), and KYS’s (Know You Status FREE HIV testing events).  As you might imagine, while volunteering with a.l.p.h.a. and HIV/AIDS centered organization, I started getting to know alot of the LGBT community.  Here I found acceptance as a married bisexual woman!  I was just one of the gang!  I love working with these people!

And now, here I was being nominated for this award by the community that at first shunned me…and now is awarding me as one of them volunteering FOR them as well as our community at large!  I finally felt like I was “home”!

I looked at the other nominees; they either volunteered for The  Community Center (the people hosting the award ceremony) or they were very well-known people within the LGBT community.  I didn’t think I had a chance at winning.  But it was put to a public vote.  We were encouraged to send out the email and post it on facebook….and that is exactly what I did.  Sure enough, I had enough votes, I was awarded the Willow Award for being a bisexual woman who performs community service in and outside the LGBT community!  This felt amazing!

They called my name, and I could hardly believe it.  I walked up to the stage and was given the chance to make an acceptance speech where I shared my story of contacting The Community Center first..and now I am receiving an award from them.  Everything goes full circle!

I am humbled and honored just from the nomination, and even more so with the fact that people voted for me and I won.  Volunteering is something that I do.  It is my “job”.  I am very fortunate to be able to be a stay at home  mom and volunteer my time.  I am grateful to my husband for supporting me in this and for my family being generous with their “mom time” and sharing me with our community.  I could never do what I do without my family!  I am very blessed!

And I was just told this morning that I am being nominated for another award; this time it’s a national award with the opportunity (if I win) to be awarded a significant amount of money to be donated to my volunteer organization.  For the nomination process, I was asked to gather and write a kind of resume of my community service.  I only started keeping track in 1998.  But it dawned on me that I have been volunteering since I was  12 years old.  That is 29 years of community service!!!  I am so very grateful for the opportunity to be of service to my community (where ever that is at the time).  I have touched so many lives, but in turn so many lives have touched mine in ways that I will never be able to communicate.

My life is truly blessed and not a moment goes by that I do not recognize this.

Thank you for everyone who voted for me to receive The Willow Award.  Thank you to my family for all of your support.  Thank you to a.l.p.h.a. for using my talents and pushing me to be better with them.  Thank you to the Girl Scouts of America for being inclusive and being such great examples for our girls.  Thank you to the Junior League of Boise for providing me with the leadership opportunities so that I can grow and be stronger!

If you ever have the opportunity to be of service, even if its just for one hour, please take it.  Every minute of service counts.  Remember that what you give, you will receive.  You get from life what you put into it.  What are you putting into your life?  Are you giving back?  Are you paying it forward?  I hope so; you won’t regret it!  I  never do!