North Texas Daily

The Denton Verb brings volunteers together in the name of love

The Denton Verb brings volunteers together in the name of love

March 09
20:53 2016

Haley Yates | Staff Writer

@haleysocoollike

It took a failed marriage to a man for Natalie Woods to come out to her parents. When they cut her off for a while, Woods found acceptance through the Human Rights Campaign and landed a position as the Membership Outreach co-chair.

After five years of leadership training, women’s leadership conferences and her firsthand experience of the feat of marriage equality, Woods said she decided local voices weren’t being heard as well as they should—specifically within the black, elderly and transgender communities.

“Denton has welcomed me home with open arms a few times in life,” Woods said. “This city is full of dreamers and people who live out love, and for the people who don’t, I truly believe that being the change and giving without return is what moves people to do more.”

The Denton Verb started in July 2015 after Woods held a social hour in her home. Different local leaders showed up to learn about the organization, and eventually, Woods gained support from United Through H.O.P.E., OUTreach Denton and others.

Woods said she wanted to give the people of Denton the opportunity to volunteer without any labels. A once-a-month commitment isn’t hard, she said, and it gives her the chance to see where people fit in the community.

“The passion grew inside of me to give everyone from every walk of life the chance to volunteer for any and all local organizations,” Woods said. “Denton needed this, and we work diligently to get involved wherever we are needed.”

The Denton Verb teamed up with OUTreach Denton to put on the Transgender Day of Remembrance in November, held a clothes drive for the UNT Pride Alliance in December and has worked with the Promote Love movement in Dallas. The organization is also involved in local nursing homes and LGBTQ groups.

Woods said as a white woman with white privilege, she knew she couldn’t be the voice for everyone, so she made sure to find leaders that could be that voice. Ian Summerhill was recruited as the Trans Advocacy co-chair, and Woods brought on

Naomi Kliewer and Stephanie Lopez as diversity co-chairs.

Summerhill said his involvement with the group has pushed him to face challenges and fears in his own life. Summerhill had previous struggles with communicating and meeting new people, but since immersing himself in the volunteer work, reaching out to others has become a huge part of his position.

“The Denton Verb has brought a lot of people together from all across the community,” he said. “We also get to give people a voice that haven’t really had one before, or even magnify others’ voices to try to help them reach a broader community.”

Summerhill said when it comes to volunteering, the changes aren’t always immediately evident. There’s usually a greater issue that can’t be fixed with a few acts but still needs to be chipped away at, he said.

Kliewer has been friends with Woods for years and said she was more than happy to join her as co-chair for the Denton Verb. Since becoming part of the team, Kliewer said she has seen more awareness of projects that need to be done in Denton.

“I think people don’t realize that there is so much you can do in your backyard,” she said.

Kliewer and Lopez share the title of diversity co-chair, but Lopez met Woods years before through the Human Rights Campaign. The two were co-chairs through different outlets of the organization and married in August, just two months after the marriage equality law passed.

Woods has lived in Denton before, but Lopez said when they both moved to Denton it made sense to put their background, knowledge and heart into something more grassroots.

“When we first started, we weren’t sure where to begin, but a lot of opportunities began to sprout up,” Lopez said. “Having multiple co-chairs from different backgrounds and walks of life has helped to find new and exciting ways to help.”

The Denton Verb is looking for an organization to help suicide prevention this month, and next month, they will help shear alpacas for Old Irish Bed & Breakfast.  Woods said she loves animals as much as people, and the organization is open to volunteering anywhere, even if it means learning a new trade.

She also said The Denton Verb’s goal isn’t to become a massive organization or non-profit. Staying local and hearing the voice of the community is of utmost importance.

“I don’t care if it’s a falling-down church or a homeless shelter—people need to love on each other in the name of love and nothing more,” she said. “Not because God said so, not because society says it will make you feel better about yourself. It’s about being selfless and giving without asking for anything in return.”

Featured Image: Natalie Woods started The Denton Verb in July 2015. Erica Wieting | Featured Editor  

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