A joyous, virtual evening of celebration in honor of Equality Ohio’s 15th anniversary and celebrating the outstanding work of allies and advocates from five regions across Ohio.

Hosted By:

Karen Williams

Northwest Ohio Honorees


Our Honored Ally, Kendra Kec


Kendra Kec, MPA is the Site Supervisor at The Art Tatum Learning Center and is helping coordinate other Community Learning Centers partnering with Toledo Public Schools by providing support for students engaged in remote learning during the COVID pandemic. She continues to serve as a champion for equity and justice in this role while helping the founders of The Art Tatum Zone develop programming under its six directional pillars: Education, Health and Well-being, Economic Development, Neighborhood Stabilization, Community and Family Engagement and Leadership and Personal Development. Prior to landing at The ATZ, Kendra was the Assistant Court Administrator at Lucas County Juvenile Court in Toledo, Ohio. Throughout her 25 years in justice she helped oversee court operations, probation, detention, residential treatment, mediation, drug courts, fiscal operations, human resources and community programs, grants and contracts. Kendra was a founding member of the State of Ohio’s Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative and served as chairperson for state led reform for many years. In her last two years of service at the Court, Kendra worked with Dr. Angela Irvine of Ceres Policy Research and Kim Welter at Equality, Ohio to train staff locally and participate in groundbreaking research regarding the disparate treatment and resources for youth who identify as part of the LGBTQIA population. Kendra continues to work with the Toledo, Equality Ohio office to provide youth who identify as LGBTQIA the support and resources they deserve. As a graduate from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice and from University of Toledo with a Master in Public Administration, Kendra challenges everyone to one simple task: Love first.


Our Honored Advocate, Sheena Barnes


Sheena is a committed advocate, mother, and community member. Sheena is the new Executive Director of Equality Toledo advocating for the LGBTQ community while still using her voice to working with people to serve as a bridge between the community and the healthcare, government, and social service systems. Sheena has experience with public policy and youth crisis intervention advocacy.

Sheena moved to Toledo from Flint, Michigan about 12 years ago and made Toledo a home for herself, and her three children. Sheena quickly became involved in the community here as became a board member for Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) and Legal Aide for Western of Ohio (LAWO), she is also the newest board member of The Family House shelter in Toledo and The Buckeye Flame. Sheena made history in Toledo by becoming the first openly LGBTQ community member of color that sit on the Toledo Public Board of Education.


Our Honored Advocate, Nick Komives


A native of northwest Ohio, Nick Komives attended high school in Genoa. He went on to work as a community organizer while attending Owens Community College where he received an Associate Degree with Honors. He is the recipient of the Toledo 20 Under 40 Leadership Award, Equality Award from Equality Toledo, named Champion of Equal from the Toledo City Paper, and several other awards and commendations by various civil rights organizations.

As a community organizer, Nick fought for the rights of teachers, workers, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and other marginalized communities. He most recently served as Executive Director of Equality Toledo for five years.

Under his leadership, Equality Toledo successfully protected the right of a same gender couple denied of their right to marry shortly after it became the law of the land. The city’s Municipal Equality Index Score by the Human Rights Campaign increased each year while he worked with the city to improve the inclusion of LGBTQ people, now consistently above 100. Most recently, Nick stood at the forefront in passing the country’s most comprehensive ban on conversion therapy. He also added protections in housing, employment, and public accomodations for transgender folks to the city’s municipal code, passed a city policy ensuring healthcare for transgender employees or family members, and unveiled the new Pride Way along Adams Street in Toledo.

Nick now serves as Council Member At Large in Toledo, Ohio. He was elected in November 2017 and began his service on January 2, 2018. He has passed measures helping to close the gender pay gap, improve voter accessibility, expand fair and affordable housing, and improve the health of Lake Erie.

Northeast Ohio Honorees


Our Honored Ally, Judi Hill


Judi Hill is a native of Oberlin, Ohio and graduate of The University of Akron and Youngstown State University. Professionally she worked for Akron Public Schools for thirty plus years teaching, designing curriculum and serving as an administrator.

As a retiree she is actively involved in the community and serves on a variety of committees and boards. She is currently The President of the Akron NAACP, a member of Akron Christ Child Society, board member for Towpath Credit Union, a steering committee member of the City of Akron Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce, and a member of the Dr. Shirla R. McClain Gallery of Akron’s Black History. She is a Sunday school teacher at Arlington Church of God and a Guardian ad litem for abused and neglected children in Summit County.

She has received many honors and awards including The University of Akron Alumni Award, Akron Urban League Pioneer Award, Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for Northeast Ohio ATHENA International Leadership Award.

Judi Hill enjoys traveling, reading and family fun. She feels her greatest honor and accomplishments are– grandmother of 7, mother of 4 and wife of Dr. Gregory Hill.


Our Honored Advocate, Kage Coven


Kage Coven is an actor/singer/boylesque entertainer from Youngstown, Ohio. He performs with the Rust Belt Theatre Company. He has provided educational outreach about the trans community and his personal transition at Youngstown State University, Mercy Health Nursing, Slippery Rock University & Kent Trumbull. He serves as a member of the board of Do Good. Period., a 501(c)3 nonprofit to uplift women and promote dignity by providing period products to those in need. In 2017, he received the Transgender Leader of The Year Award from Cleveland’s TDOR. Kage also admins for several transgender support groups via Facebook. He was also crowned Mr. Youngstown Pride (2009) and Buffalo King of Kings (2009). He strives to always use his platform and voice to amplify the needs of his community.

Central Ohio Honorees


Our Honored Ally, Michael Payton



G. Michael Payton served The Ohio Civil Rights Commission for 18 years and made great accomplishments to advance civil rights in the state of Ohio. Payton has been an outspoken advocate for including LGBTQ people in Ohio’s nondiscrimination laws. Upon retiring from OCRC, Payton said: “It has been a high privilege and honor to serve our state. I’m grateful for all of the great citizens that I’ve met along the way. I have been blessed to have the opportunity to lead our agency in administrating Ohio’s strong public policy against discrimination.”


Our Honored Advocate, Julia Applegate



Julia M. Applegate directs the Equitas Health Institute at Equitas Health where she leads LGBTQ+ health education, research and community engagement efforts to improve the health and wellness of LGBTQ+ communities across Ohio and beyond. Julia holds a Master of Arts in Women’s, Sexuality and Gender Studies from The Ohio State University and has 20 years of teaching experience in this field at the University level. She is currently working on obtaining a Master of Public Health degree from The Ohio State University.

Southwest Ohio Honorees


Our Honored Ally, Mary Stagaman


Mary Stagaman is a purpose-driven leader who is motivated to build more inclusive and more equitable organizations and communities. She is skilled at leading from the middle of the table; working across diverse constituencies and interests; and harnessing intention to yield action.

Throughout her long career, Mary has had one foot in her workplace and the other in the community, bridging gaps between silos and sectors, people and place.

Most recently, she was the architect of Diverse by Design™, a groundbreaking Cincinnati initiative to attract, develop and retain diverse, high potential talent and grow a region that is welcoming to all. Diverse by Design has been supported by leading companies in the region, including Procter & Gamble, Fidelity, General Electric, Fifth Third Bank, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Children’s, US Bank, Kroger and many others.

As vice president for inclusion at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, Mary led the creation of that organization’s inclusion plan; coached and developed the organizational team to model inclusion in everything they do; and influenced advocacy efforts including support of Ohio Business Competes. Her work was recognized nationally when Cincinnati was dubbed “The Inclusive Chamber” by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.

Currently, Mary is an independent consultant supporting organizations moving toward greater equity and inclusion. She is serving as impact executive-in-residence for ArtsWave; as a core team member for P&G’s Take on Race corporate race initiative; and as an advisor to Black Achievers, Inc.


Our Honored Advocate, Tim’m West


Tim’m T. West is an educator, poet, youth advocate, and hip-hop artist who has spent decades traveling the nation, speaking about issues at the intersection of race, gender, sexuality and social justice. A graduate of Duke University (BA), The New School for Social Research (MA) and Stanford University (MA), he is the author of several books and hip-hop projects, and is widely anthologized. He has also appeared in multiple documentaries at the intersection of hip hop and black masculinity. Prior to joining Teach For America in 2014, Tim’m served as inaugural faculty at Oakland School for the Arts, impacted educational outcomes as an English teacher and basketball coach at Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School for Public Policy, and more recently as Director of Youth Services at Chicago’s Center on Halsted. A Board member of the LGBT Institute located at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta where he is now a DEI consultant, Tim’m was named one of 31 icons during LGBT History Month in October of 2015. Tim’m currently leads Teach For America’s national LGBTQ+ Community Initiative, advancing safer and braver classrooms for LGBTQ educators and students in grades preK-12. In Cincinnati Tim’m is very active as an alum serving on the Board of School Board School, a Board member for Wordplay- Cincy, Chair of Chase Elementary LSDMC, and Co-founder and Board Chair of Cincinnati Black Pride.

Southeast Ohio Honorees


Our Honored Ally, Sean Dunne


Coming soon!


Our Honored Advocate, Southeast Ohio Rainbow Alliance (SEORA)


Coming soon!

Thank you to our Host Committee
(in formation)

Sandy Anderson & Lynn Readey, Senator Nickie Antonio, Matthew Arnold & Michael Wojtanowski, Herb Asher, Susan Becker & Sue Ziegler, Barbara Benham, Rev. J. Bennett Guess & James Therrien, Kathy Bowman & Kim Seibert, Brooke Cartus, Ted & Bobbie Celeste, Amanda & Erin Cole, John Corlett & Doug Van Auken, Richard Cugino, Joshua Culbertson, David & Mark Cunningham, Jody Davis & Jennifer Evans, Amy Demlow, Mary Duffey & Tony Logan, Mark Dunaway & Marc Gofstein, Chad Eggspuehler, Amanda & Bryan Everitt, Paul Feeney & Chad Braun, Lee Fisher & Peggy Zone-Fisher, Sally & Robb Fitch, Ben Garcia & Scott Fabianek, Paul Giorgiannai & Julia White, Molly Hagkull, Richard Hodges, Susan & Mitch Hyde, Doron Kalir, Eric & Beth Kawalec, Melodee Kornacker, Mary Lazarus, Trip & Lexie Lazarus, Gregg Levine & Howard Epstein, Steven M. Licciardi, Richard Lorentz, Carole Lunney & Conor Hayes, Joe & Nathan Matuszewski, Melissa & Mikael McLaren, Keith McNeil, Brett Meyer, Pamela Miller, Jim Obergefell, Kimber Perfect, Adam Pulskamp, Shyam Rajadhyaksha & Adam Lanter, Mark & Sue Real, R.L. & Barbara Richards, Bob D. Roehm, Kellie Rubesne & Ann Zofchak, Joseph Savarise, Maria Shinn, Michael Smithson, Mary Stagaman & Ron Kull, Tara & Don Stewart, Maureen & David Teed, Scott Thacker, Natalie Thomas, Jaron Terry & Brian Smith, Michelle Tomallo, Sandy & Eric Varndell, Andrew & Randy Watterson, Joseph Wenger IV, Joseph & Lisa Wenger, Chad Williams & Kerby Ollendieck, Kathy Wyenandt

Thank you to our Generous Sponsors





Interested in sponsoring Ohio Allies & Advocates? Learn more about how your support helps create more legal and lived equality here.