Why Leland Francis Gives back during Pride.
Growing up in Oklahoma, most Sundays and Wednesdays were spent in church. My mother was very active and taught the children’s church program. During my junior high and high school years, summers were filled with bible camp and mission trips. The mission trips that resonated with me most were the ones to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. I remember one trip to Dallas in particular when the counselors took our toothbrush, combs, deodorant and clothing from us upon arrival. We had to do good deeds to get certain items back and we slept outside under the stars with just our sleeping bag. On another trip to Atlanta, we slept in sleeping bags on a warehouse floor and then served in the kitchen in the day. On another trip to New York City, I helped in the mobile soup kitchens.
I grew up in poverty and these trips taught me how close my family could have been if my grandparents had not stepped in. These trips taught me compassion and empathy. They taught me how hard it is for someone to bounce back from life on the street. As I got older and moved from Oklahoma to Dallas to New York City, and now living in Los Angeles, I started to notice a trend that the majority of the homeless youth were LGBTQ+.
I’m thankful to have 5 siblings, two of whom are gay themselves, and a mother who has always been accepting. However, that is not always the case in most families. According to the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Provider Survey in 2019, 20% of youth seeking homeless services identify as gay or lesbian, 7% identify as bisexual, and 2% identify as questioning. Nearly 30% of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+, and chances are these kids didn’t grow up in accepting environments and their families may not have been able to adapt to cope with their child’s differences.
In past years I have donated a portion of all sales for the month of June to both the Los Angeles LGBT Center and the Ali Forney Center in NYC. This year, I have created two limited edition candles, bois and tomboy. Both are made with 100% natural fragrance, soy wax, and a cotton wick. 100% of the net proceeds from sale of these candles will go to support these amazing charities that help with food, shelter, medical and social services for the most vulnerable LGBTQ+.