SAN DIEGO -- In speaking with Cheli Mohamed, one must reconsider what it truly means to "give back to the community." Volunteering seems to come naturally to Cheli. As the former resources director for San Diego LGBT Pride, she organized the recruitment and placement of some 1,000 volunteers annually, driven by the desire to promote awareness and encouragement throughout the community.
Today, in addition to acting as chief operations officer for the US Police & Fire Championships, she leads Volunteer with Cheli, a grassroots organization made by and for volunteers, in order to give back to the LGBT community.
Cheli gives SDGLN a little more insight into her daily routines and what drives her to volunteer.
Hometown: Brawley, CA
Single or taken: Single
How many years have you lived in San Diego? 29 years
What motivates you to get involved and start movements like Volunteer with Cheli?
I truly believe that every single person has the power to change the world through volunteering.
How many people are currently involved in this project?
We already have a couple dozen people involved. We just kicked off the project Jan 3, 2014. More than 230 people have liked our Facebook page. Our first big project is Sedona/Verde Valley Pride in September. But the goal is to have volunteers involved with to suggest projects that are close to their hearts and get us all involved, and in the process engage us and educate us on their projects and causes.
What does a typical day look like for you? How much time do you usually put into volunteering?
I go walking just about every day by 6 am. I am at work at the California Police Athletic Federation by 8:30 am. As their chief operating officer, I oversee all aspects of the United States Police & Fire Championships. The Police and Fire Olympics, held here in San Diego every June. We offer 50 sports at 35 venues over a 10-day period. I oversee corporate development, contract negotiations, volunteer management and sports delivery.
Depending on the day, I am either at a board meeting or committee meeting for Home Start (one of the oldest non-profits in San Diego working on the prevention of child abuse and neglect) or our very own Lambda Archives of San Diego. On my other days I am working on Volunteer with Cheli providing information on volunteer management, samples of volunteer job descriptions, production manuals, policies and procedures, and recruitment plans. In addition, I am working on my volunteer recruitment for San Diego Pride’s Information Center in July. I would say I volunteer close to 20 hours a week. Did I say I was a volunteer junkie?
What’s a little fact or piece of trivia we/readers may not know about you?
I am very shy.
What would you like to see change in the local LGBT community?
I would like to see more people volunteer or simply be more involved doing things inside and outside our community. Being out and about is how we manage to change people’s opinions about our community.
What do you like most about the local LGBT community?
Their incredible sense of community. LGBT Volunteers are the hardest working and most dedicated volunteers that I have ever had the honor of working with. And I have worked with hundreds if not thousands of volunteers in the past 25 years.
Are there any "well-kept" secrets your neighborhood has, by way of dining, events or nightlife that you’d recommend to a visitor?
I don’t go out that much. I enjoy meeting friends at local spots like Gossip Grill or Fig Tree Café – other than that, my little house in Hillcrest is my hideaway and safe zone.
Do you have any hobbies, activities or pastimes outside of volunteering?
I have two incredible kids, Brianna, 10, and RJ, 6. When I am not working, walking or volunteering, I am enjoying San Diego with my two kids. Seeing the world through their eyes keeps me going, keeps me young, and keeps me laughing. I am determined to leave this world a better place for them. I want to see them grow up in a world that embraces and celebrates their diversity, not one that bullies them because they have two gay mommies.
Who is someone you look up to in the community, and why?
I look up to Assemblymember Toni Atkins. I had the honor of working with her for 7½ years when she was a council member here in San Diego. Her passion and commitment for constituent services, her ability to empower community members to work with the city to improve our neighborhoods, her willingness to put herself on the line to ensure that we as LGBT community had a place at the table, her hard work, and endless energy is unsurpassed.
If you could host a dinner party and invite three people (dead or alive), who would they be and why?
I would invite my Nana Tomasa and her husband Noor Mohamed (they adopted me) and my biological Dad – and I would like to thank them for all the gifts in my life. I would thank them for the sacrifices they made to give me so many opportunities in this country. And I would love to simply see them one more time, to hug them and tell them how much I love them!