by Jill Gleeson, Photography by Chelsea Swanger
Photo: Heidi Notario and Tracy Hipple
The pair, who live in Camp Hill with Noah, Notario’s 14-year-old son from a previous relationship, are both athletes who participate annually in the YWCA of Greater Harrisburg’s Race Against Racism. Hipple and Notario also lace up their running shoes every year for the Capital 10-Miler. It’s an event especially meaningful to them because it supports the Gamut Theatre Group, and Noah is an actor.
“I think there has to be a strong desire within yourself to be a part of a bigger community and make connections and help in any way possible,” notes Hipple of why she and Notario donate their time, energy and money to worthy causes. “If it’s something that’s true to your heart, get involved!”
But the organization that means the most to Hipple and Notario is the LGBT Center of Central PA. In addition to contributing to it monetarily, they attend events supporting it, like the annual fundraising walk and the Fall Achievement Benefit. For the past three years, they’ve also volunteered with the women’s group, which provides a place for all women to celebrate their gender and discuss topics ranging from health concerns to politics. Notario also serves on the Center’s board and works with the LGBT youth group, a role which she finds especially fulfilling.
“I so appreciate the opportunity of working with youth because they are the future,” Notario explains. “And I think we, as adults, have a responsibility to show them that it is possible to have families and jobs and go to school and live very regular, healthy, fulfilling lives. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about suicide rates when it comes to youth in the LGBT community, so anything that we can do to prevent youth from taking their own lives because they don’t feel like they belong, it personally gives me a reason to be involved and vocal about it.”
Notario, who is from Cuba, and Hipple, a lifelong resident of the capital city region, met about four years ago through a buddy. Seeking friendship and a sense of belonging, feeling like a piece was missing from their lives, they found what they were searching for in each other – and the LGBT Center.
“I think one of the biggest things that has affected the LGBT community over the years is isolation,” Notario details, “and Central Pennsylvania can be a difficult place, at times, for members of it. So I think the more we can raise awareness, connect with each other and create a safe space – and that certainly is what the center does – the better.”