June 19, 2015
Friendship, empathy drive our new Palm Beach development officer
Sandra Saladrigas, “a ball of positive energy,”
builds local support for Equality Florida
Sometimes a deep friendship is what draws a person into working for the equal rights and dignity of LGBT people.
This was certainly the case for Sandra Saladrigas, Equality Florida's new development officer for Palm Beach County.
“It just pulls at my heartstrings because I have so many friends in the LGBT community, and I don’t understand why they don’t have the same rights as I do,” said Saladrigas, a long-time real estate agent and business owner in Palm Beach County.
“Sandra is just a ball of positive energy,” said Stratton Pollitzer, Equality Florida’s deputy director. “And she is fully committed to LGBT equal rights. We know her enthusiasm and many friendships will bring a lot of understanding and support to our mission.”
Sandra has always believed in social justice. But it was her long friendship with the late Charlie Hounchell, a Tampa attorney and Equality Florida board member, that drew her into this particular work.
Sandra and Charlie had known each other since both were fashion models on the international scene many years ago. After Sandra married her husband, architect Raphael Saladrigas, and began raising a family in Palm Beach County, she and Charlie remained close. Charlie asked her to help connect Palm Beach people to Equality Florida's statewide work.
When Charlie died of a heart attack in 2013, at the age of 53, Sandra flew immediately to Tampa to help his family and friends cope with his sudden death. A few days later she found herself at an Equality Florida event that Charlie had helped to organize. A resolve to continue his work was born.
“It really was because of Charlie. He had done so much for this and other causes. And his friendship had meant so much to me. I realized I just had to take it and carry on.”
She’s pretty fired up about Equality Florida too. “One of the things I want to accomplish is to remind people that it’s not just about marriage. Depending on where you live in this state, can you put up your wedding photos on your desk at the office and keep your job? In many places you probably can’t, and that’s wrong.”
One of Equality Florida’s goals is to pass a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination anywhere in Florida because of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.
“I love what Equality Florida does,” she said. “They’re not flashy. They just work. They go to the front lines and they make things happen. They change people’s lives. If I’m able to help in that journey, I’m all about that.”