Phyllis Harris, ED of LGBT Community Center of Cleveland Is Named Most Interesting People of 2020 By Cleveland Magazine
MissionBox Advisory Board Member, Phyllis Harris, is an LGBT Advocate, Recognized in Her Community as a community advocate and extraordinary leader in positive social change.
The following article is an excerpt from Cleveland Magazine December 23, 2019.
Phyllis Harris, also known as “Seven,” as in lucky seven, provides Cleveland’s LGBT community with health and wellness services, counseling, family support services, youth programming and more at the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland. Over the last eight years, Phyllis has grown the Center’s staff from three to 15 and increased the annual operating budget from $268,000 to $1.1 million. Last year, she led the opening of a new state-of-the-art, two-story center in the Gordon Square Arts District of Cleveland.
Phyllis took her first plunge as an activist in middle school. When a teacher publicly called out students for poor hygiene, Harris spoke up, telling the teacher she thought that behavior was hurtful. The teacher never did it again. “That was the first time I felt like using my voice and being a leader had an impact.”
Harris moved to San Francisco in 1992, where she worked as a Walgreens pharmacy technician at the height of the AIDS epidemic. The experience inspired her to come back and work with the AIDS Task Force of Greater Cleveland and Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, followed by four years as the vice president of programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Cleveland. “I had great role models who taught me what it means to be a proud woman, proud to be black, proud to be a lesbian.”
Phyllis is the mother of two children, 14-year-old daughter Jaden and a 22-year-old son Austin.
Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk, the CEO of MissionBox, first met Phyllis when Phyllis contacted Kathryn to ask her why none of her current Advisory Board members were people of color, a recruitment issue Kathryn had been attempting to address in the new business.
Kathryn responded by enthusiastically inviting Phyllis to join the Board. MissionBox is proud to have Phyllis as an active advisor.