Agents of Change

In its 20th year, the HRC Palm Springs Garden Party hits a milestone and brightly shines the spotlight on individuals whose tireless efforts have created dramatic ripple effects.

GREG ARCHER Current Digital, LGBT

The Movie Colony residence of Darrin Pelkey and John Shields will host the HRC Palm Springs Garden Party on Nov. 2.

Nearly 1,000 intrepid souls will gather at the 20th annual Human Rights Campaign Palm Springs Garden Party this year for a Saturday afternoon designed to inspire, celebrate, and advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community. All of that swirls around a fiery if not much ballyhooed open cocktail reception on Nov. 2 that includes a robust silent auction, a slew of special guests, some thought-provoking speakers, and noteworthy honorees who have made valiant contributions to the LGBTQ community.

This is where the Advocate for Equality Award honorees will get their time in the spotlight. Although they will be honored at a separate Friday evening event, this year’s honorees, the Rev. Andrew Green and Leslie Barclay, will undoubtedly garner accolades throughout the HRC Palm Springs Garden Party outing.

“It was a wonderful feeling to hear that I was one of the honorees,” says the Rev. Green, who was ordained in the Episcopal Church in 1985 and retired earlier this year after 30 years of service as Senior Pastor of St. Paul in the Desert in Palm Springs.

But the Rev. Green had been an active change agent in other realms. In addition to having been the chaplain of the Palm Springs Police Department and a longtime boardmember of Desert AIDS Project, he was also elected twice to the Palm Springs Unified School District Board of Education and served seven years there.

These are significant and potentially sea-changing contributions and in conversation, the Rev. Green says his passion to give back began with the onset of HIV/AIDS. In addition to meeting people in his parish who were afflicted with HIV or AIDS — those who didn’t want anyone else to know their status — he realized that many individuals sought medical care in Los Angeles to maintained anonymity. Later, when a priest died of HIV/AIDS, there was a sudden rise of compassion for the people who were suffering.


The Rev. Andrew Green

“There was this stigma at the time,” the Rev. Green recalls. “Pastorally with people in need and programmatically, I realized that this might be a place where I had a voice that could make a difference.”

One of the patterns he witnessed, early on, was noticing that a vast majority of people may have felt that people who had HIV or AIDS had it because of some “mistake” they made and that everything focused on that “mistake.”

“Even people who are trying to be caring might have said, ‘Even though you made this mistake …’ It was not really acceptance or equality,” the Rev.  Green recalls. “It was toleration. Now, we’ve begun to understand that there’s more to equality than just ‘tolerating people’ who are different from the white male majority. It’s about accepting, including, embracing, and being welcoming."

Barclay, a Studio City resident and also a recipient of this year’s Advocate for Equality Award, boasts a rich backstory that demonstrates her support of the LGBTQ community. After being outed during a business trip for the liquor industry, Seagrams placed her at the helm of LGBTQ events in San Francisco, increasing Absolut Vodka sales by 22 percent in the city. The creation of a Gay and Lesbian Market specialist role followed and during the phoenix of the AIDS epidemic, she spearheaded nearly 300 events a year for community outreach, including gatherings for HRC, Desert AIDS Project, Elton John’s Oscar Party, Trevor Project, the Trans Choir, and many others.

“I realized, in order to get, you have to give,” Barclay says. “I started being more philanthropic. I never thought in my lifetime I would see gay marriage come to fruition and I began doing a lot of fundraising for that. I tried to help everybody.


Leslie Barclay

Like the HRC Palm Springs Garden Party, Barclay has also hit a milestone.

“I had my 25th anniversary this year doing LGBTQ events,” she says. “I believe you have to pay it forward. Change is possible and you have to show the way. Human kindness truly pays off.”

Founded in 1980, the Human Rights Campaign advocates on behalf of LGBTQ Americans. HRC remains the largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans, with a powerful force of more than 3 million members and supporters nationwide.

But the road ahead remains filled with major action items. For instance, there’s a push for continued movement of the Equality Act on to the Senate floor, and electing a president who will sign it into law. No doubt that will be a passionate topic pollinating in the garden this year.

Palm Springs comedian Shann Carr will emcee the event with live auctioneer Lenny Broberg, and DJ Bob Deck. Sponsorship includes— Premiere:  Morgan Stanley. Victory:  Alaska Airlines, Bruce Bastian & Clint Ford, Contour Dermatology, Eisenhower Health, Smirnoff, US Bank. Leadership:  Trio, True Value Palm Springs. Equality: Contempo Lending, HK Lane Real Estate, Lighthouse. Presenting Media: Palm Springs Life. Media and In-Kind:  KGay 106.5, Gay Desert Guide, Promo Homo TV, and Wine Sponsor: Young's Market.

The 20th annual HRC Garden Party takes place from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Nov. 2 at The Movie Colony residence of Darrin Pelkey and John Shields (address provided upon RSVP). For tickets and additional information, visit


Shann Carr