Meet the staff: Clelia

We have four new staff members at Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Over the next few weeks, each will introduce themselves here. Last time, we met Leann Rafferty, our Office Manager. Now, we’re pleased to have Clelia (starts with a KL sound, as in clearly, rhymes with Ophelia) Sweeney, our new Operations Associate, tell us about herself: 

View More: I tell people that I grew up in a log cabin in Vermont, their reaction is never neutral. Typically, their eyes get wide and I can see them searching my face for signs of psychological stunting or backwoods serial killer tendencies. But that is where I’m from; rural Vermont, high up in the hinterlands of New England, one of the most liberal and anti-mainstream places in the country. Billboards are outlawed, there’s a 0.41 cow-to-human ratio, and queer organic farmers live beside proud rednecks with inexplicable Confederate flag stickers on their pick-up bumpers. Although I have fond feelings about where I’m from, there was never a time growing up that I didn’t want to get out and move to a city. Since then I’ve lived in New York City, Chicago, Great Barrington (a fairly small town, but still Elsewhere), and now Raleigh.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I started keeping a diary at 5. I started reading on my own around the same time and never stopped – if I could make a living through reading I would. I felt alienated and academically ignored during high-school, and left at 17 when I was accepted into an “early college” program: Bard College at Simon’s Rock. There I did theater for the first time, encountered critical theory, made my most lasting friendships, and expanded my awareness of LGBTQ and racial justice issues. I spent a rich two years there, but the campus was rural and I still wanted to get out of the woods.

While finishing my degree at DePaul University in Chicago, I took some journalism classes along with my American Studies major and wrote about people experiencing homelessness that I met in the city. Although everyone I knew anticipated I’d become an English major, studying literature always felt too insular and self-serving; I was drawn to fields that incorporated social sciences, history, and activism. The two spring break service trips I took during my time at DePaul bolstered what I had been learning about, vastly altering my perspectives on socioeconomic inequality and systems of oppression.

After graduation, I did a lot of things to stay afloat. I worked at a diner, bookstore, restorative justice center, small local newspaper, and a weird New Age shop. But I knew I wanted to do a year of service with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps before trying to figure out what my adult career was going to be (I still have no idea.) I’m not Catholic, but Jesuits are good people and I welcomed the opportunity to do a year of service while living in community with others. My housemates are five wonderful fellow volunteers, all working at different organizations throughout the city. As the first JV to work at Love Wins, I have no idea what this year will bring but I’m eager to find out.


Meet the staff: Leann

We have four new staff members at Love Wins Community Engagement Center. Over the next few weeks, each will introduce themselves here. First up, Leann Rafferty, our Office Manager, tells us a bit about herself:

13512100_10153923316031865_6514260881780027650_nI always knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. My parents never quite liked the idea of their only daughter going into a field that doesn’t come with a corner office and a six figure salary, but they have always been supportive of me even if my mom does email me applications for law schools every few weeks. I know she only wants the best for me, but sometimes it’s just really hard to explain to her that my best life looks nothing like the picture she painted in her mind when I was handed to her at four weeks old and told that this was her daughter now, and what were you going to name her? She named me Leann Rafferty and I deeply disappointed her when I announced at age five that I wanted to be an artist.

My dad always understood. He’s had every career under the sun from pilot to restauranteur to professional handyman. He taught me how to use power tools, cook, and plant a garden. But most importantly he taught me that it’s ok to let your heart lead when it comes to your career, that a woman can do anything that a man can do, and that money is only as good as the good you can do with it. Needless to say, this last bit has always been a point of contention in my parent’s marriage, especially since he retired and bought a lake cabin with no indoor plumbing. What I find funniest about our relationship is that my father is deeply disappointed in the fact that he never managed to impart conservative values in me and completely fails to see that he is the reason why I am who I am and where I am today.

I always wanted to be an artist because I like creating. I like taking nothing and making something. I went to Appalachian State to get my BFA in metalsmithing so I could do that very thing, but I found upon graduation that even artists get boxed into little cubes. Creativity is not welcome in corporate spaces. Trying the spreadsheet a different way results in a reprimand. I started making tiny sculptures out of the red wax that comes on soft cheese just to sate the hungry artist inside, but that didn’t help enough.

I discovered volunteer work on accident. I was introduced to the LGBT Center of Raleigh by my boyfriend who does a great deal of volunteer work for them.  I started hanging out there and going to events and one day I realized I had become part of the community. People knew my name and I knew theirs. I was thrilled when they put me in charge of the monthly First Friday event because it combines my two loves; art and people. But still I wanted more. My job was crushing my soul in a beige cube and then I was forwarded a job application for Love Wins.

Creating community is still creating something from nothing. Helping to create a space where people can come and be themselves with no stipulations or caveats is turning absence into presence. Getting to wake up every morning and come to a place where I get to do things instead of sit quietly is a dream come true. I am still an artist, but maybe now my medium has changed.