Founders of Visalia’s LGBT+ center merit awards

Executive Director Brian Poth and Director of Development and Strategy Nick Vargas of The Source LGBT+ Center in Visalia are two of nine leaders who were selected as recipients of the 2024 James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award.(The James Irvine Foundation)

The James Irvine Foundation for Innovative Leadership recognizes Brian Poth, Nick Vargas of The Source LGBT+ with 2024 Leadership Awards

SACRAMENTO – The founders of Visalia’s LGBTQ+ center have been recognized for taking the lead in creating a safe space for the Central Valley’s LGBTQ+ community.

The James Irvine Foundation announced the founders of The Source LGBT+ as two recipients of its 2024 Leadership Awards on Feb. 12. The award spotlights leaders and their organizations for their efforts in addressing critical issues impacting Californians, and grants its recipients $350,000.

According to the announcement, the grant will “be used to grow and implement new services through The Source while ensuring that every LGBTQ+ individual in the area has access to the support and services they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives.”

From The Source LGBT+, the award recipients were Executive Director Brian Poth and Director of Development and Strategy Nick Vargas. The duo was recognized for their efforts within the last seven years, as they’ve led The Source in becoming the largest LGBTQ+ Center between Los Angeles and Sacramento. The center served over 24,000 individuals in 2023.

“The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award grant will enable The Source to expand in a variety of meaningful ways, like growing our team and offering new services,” The Source stated via its website. “And with your help, we can begin creating even more spaces where LGBTQ+ people can learn, grow, belong and thrive.”

To celebrate this honor, Vargas and Poth are planning to host an event on March 14 at The Source LGBT+’s campus located at 109 NW 2nd Ave and Visalia. The celebration begins at 4 p.m. with a press conference followed by a reception; however, the event is invite-only. 

For their stories, Poth and Vargas both originated from Tulare County but left their hometowns to pursue other goals through college. Poth became an established professional actor in Los Angeles while Vargas became a top-producing financial professional in San Francisco.

While they pursued their other goals, they both enjoyed the LGBTQ+ resources and access to safe spaces the larger cities provided. While neither party had plans to return to the Valley, unfortunate circumstances brought them back to Visalia sometime in 2015, and ultimately, the two ended up crossing paths through mutual friends. Together, they eventually formed the idea for The Source.

Poth and Vargas are only two of the nine leaders who were selected as recipients of the 2024 Leadership Awards. According to the Foundation, this year’s award recipients are an impressive group of innovators working to fix a number of challenges including teacher preparation, youth justice, college access and completion, and ensuring the health and safety of Asian American and Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, refugee, and immigrant populations.

“The California Way means finding new solutions to big problems, and that’s exactly what these leaders have demonstrated through their innovative work to enhance teacher preparation, youth justice, college access and completion, and the health and safety of California’s diverse communities,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a press release from The James Irvine Foundation.

The James Irvine Foundation is a private, nonprofit grantmaking foundation dedicated to expanding opportunity for the people of California. The Foundation’s focus is California where all low-income workers have the power to advance economically. Since 1937 the Foundation has provided more than $2.6 billion in grants to organizations throughout California. The Foundation ended 2023 with $3.1 billion in assets and provided $180.3 million in grants.

For additional information on The Source LGBT+ in Visalia, visit www.thesourcelgbt.org. For more on The James Irvine Foundation, visit www.irvine.org.

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