Paul Lennander: helping gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families at Rainbow Families.

The spirit of volunteerism isn't seasonal for Kingfield resident Paul Lennander. It's been alive in him since he was a child. He recalls tagging along with his mother, who volunteered what time she had at a nursing home, spurring his desire to help people.

"My mom always gave us a desire to do something for other people," he said.

Lennander said that drive towards social service has followed him throughout his educational and professional careers. He completed a Master's degree in counseling psychology while volunteering in a children's hospital and currently works as a Hennepin County child protection investigator.

Lennander said he and his partner were considering starting a family in 1999 and decided to attend a conference held by Rainbow Families, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender parent organization.

The organization, headquartered at 711 W. Lake St., was founded in 1997 to educate the community regarding social and political issues concerning GLBT parents and prospective parents. They host conferences, workshops and events.

After attending the 1999 conference, Lennander said that he wanted to be more involved. And now, despite his busy life as a father to his 3-year-old, he still finds time to continue his volunteer work with the organization. He said in a way, his work helps his son. "I'm working so my son has a community where he can avoid feeling isolated," Lennander said.

He serves on the organization's board of directors and this year co-chairs the yearly conference.

Lennander said he is helping organize 66 different workshops with speakers and panelists for GLBT parents (and prospective parents), focusing on everything from creating families to maintaining healthy family relationships and a large GLBT concern, legal issues.

He said he feels passionately about this organization because they do so much on education and advocacy on GLBT legal issues. Lennander said because gay couples cannot be married, being gay with a family raises lots of complicating legal issues, such as child custody after the death of a parent, questions about financial protection of your family and adoption.

He said while the organization helps the GLBT community directly, a lot of their media work and events also help the rest of the community understand the struggles and concerns of gay families. "I'm working to change how people see gay people with children," he said.

Just the social interactions and networking that goes on through volunteering through Rainbow Families, Lennander said is valuable to building camaraderie within the GLBT community.

Lennander said people don't need a particular skill to volunteer their time to an organization or cause, just their time. "There's something everyone can do," he said, even if it's just your time, serving punch at the Halloween party.

Rainbow Families can be reached at 827-7731, or at [email protected] Their Website is www.rainbowfamilies.org.