Seeing blue at El Paso’s Rainbow Center

June 14, 2023 Chelsey Sleator
Volunteers lend a hand at a community center that believes in helping everyone.

On a typical Monday at the Borderland Rainbow Center in El Paso, Texas, a single-file line of people affected by food insecurity, weaves its way through the parking lot. And while the Rainbow Center serves as a space for the LGBTQ+ community to safely gather, the walkers and the people in the cars reflect all types. Regardless of demographic, the Rainbow Center pantry distributes food to whomever needs it—an average of 450 families each Monday.

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, BLUE, Indigo, Violet

On Monday April 24th, the single-file line once again wove its way through the parking lot. It was filled with the familiar faces that regularly rely on the resources of the Rainbow Center pantry. However, today it was moving a little faster. Nearly a dozen people in blue t-shirts had taken over the line. They were Schwab employees lending some extra support as part of Schwab Volunteer Week, Schwab’s annual week dedicated to service.

“Everyone was ecstatic and wanted to know if we were going to come back every week,” explains Angelica Thigpen, a Schwab employee, and project leader of the volunteer events with the Rainbow Center during Schwab Volunteer Week. “The elderly people were especially happy to see so many young people lending a hand. They were very grateful.”

The event was especially important to Angelica, which is why she raised her hand to be a volunteer lead. As a person who lives in a mid-to-low-income area, she knows a lot of people that partake in the pantry, and she’s seen how much of an impact it has. She’s also a member of Schwab’s PRIDE+ employee resource group (ERG) and is passionate about supporting an organization that supports the LGBTQ+ community. In fact, her peers in PRIDE+ were critical to making the event happen and were the primary supporters and volunteers of the event.

Schwab volunteers clockwise from left: Alejandro “Brex” De La Garza, AJ Payan, Alyssa Hinojosa, Jennifer Rosales, Monica Hinojoso, Leslie Naj, John Castaneda, Cynthia Chavira, and Luz Holmes

Schwab volunteers working at El Paso's Rainbow Center

An inclusive place to create community

Much like the Borderland Rainbow Center serves as a gathering place for El Paso’s LGBTQ+ community, the PRIDE+ ERG serves as a place where Schwab employees come together to discuss and rally around important issues they are passionate about. Right now, the group is focused on recruiting and planning for a Schwab float in El Paso’s PRIDE parade. The parade starts downtown and culminates in a family-friendly celebration with vendors and music at nearby Houston Park.

“People often misunderstand that you have to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community to be part of PRIDE,” explains Angelica. “You don’t. It’s about being passionate and helping people. Just like the Borderland Rainbow Center, PRIDE is inclusive.”

And, like all of its employee resource groups, Schwab’s PRIDE+ ERG welcomes and encourages allies as members.

Consistently showing up for the community

Back in the Rainbow Center parking lot on Monday, April 24th, Angelica and the rest of the Schwab volunteers passed out pears, yams, bacon, cookies and other food items. While it’s not enough to cover every meal for a family, it’s a lot when you don’t have much.

On Friday, another Schwab group sorted canned goods to prep for the next distribution. And when Monday rolled around again (May 1st), more blue t-shirt wearing volunteers helped with another pantry distribution.

It was a busy couple of weeks of volunteering. But Angelica understands that consistently showing up for the community means a lot, and she’s looking for more opportunities to partner with the Borderland Rainbow Center. She plans on continuing to see lots of blue at the Rainbow Center.