LGBTQIA+ History Month: Spotlighting Audra Starke

LGBTQIA+ History Month is held each October in observance of the history of people who identify as LGBTQIA+, and of the history of the fight for gay rights.

It was started in 1994 by a Missouri high school teacher named Rodney Wilson, and its celebration each year in October coincides with National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and the anniversary of early LGBT rights marches in Washington. While LGBTQIA+ History Month is celebrated in some other countries, it is recognized in different months in many of those countries.

In its early years, LGBTQIA+ History Month was largely marked by a call to action and commemoration, writes GLAAD. But in the years since, it has grown into a national coordinated effort to highlight exemplary role models from the LGBTQIA+ community.

This October, we’re talking to several of our teammates who identify as LGBTQIA+ about the progress that has been made toward equal rights for people who are LGBTQIA+, the work that still needs to be done, and the best ways we can all support the LGBTQIA+ adults and youth we know.

Our first interview is with Audra Starke, Director of Patient Services at our Moorhead, Minnesota Green Goods location.  

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your name? Where are you from? What are your preferred pronouns?

​Audra Starke, I am originally from Cooperstown North Dakota, and my preferred pronouns are her/she.

When did you start at Goodness Growth/Green Goods, and what is your location and job title?

​I started with Vireo in September of 2016 as a Patient Care Coordinator (PCC) at the Moorhead facility. I was promoted to Director of Patient Services (DPS) in early 2021.

Tell us a little about your role at Vireo.

​As a DPS, I ensure our facility is in working order from top to bottom, including interacting with our patients to provide the best customer service possible! Supporting the Pharmacists and PCCs is crucial; we wouldn’t be the amazing company we are without them!

What made you interested in joining the cannabis industry?

I became an advocate for medical cannabis at a young age after seeing the benefits it provided for multiple people in my life, including myself. From mental illnesses, cancer treatments, and chronic pain, it changed their lives tremendously for the better. I lived in Minneapolis when the medical cannabis program was approved and knew I wanted to a part of the industry to support the education, growth, and availability of cannabis for everyone.

What do you like about working at Goodness Growth?

This company was founded on our core values and the one that resonates with me the most is compassion. We are the front-line workers in an industry that still carries a negative stigma, and each day I see our team handle patients with a great amount of support and compassion. We get to see, firsthand, the positive change our medication can provide.

What are some challenges of working in the cannabis industry?

Knowing there are thousands of people across the US who are still incarcerated for non-violent cannabis offenses. It’s a huge flaw in our system; a fundamental injustice that affects our BIPOC communities in a huge way. I couldn’t contain my excitement when our company began partnering with Last Prisoner Project!

What does LGBTQIA+ History Month mean to you?

It’s a time for education & learning! We need to educate ourselves & others on how many people in the world are still in danger for loving who they love. A time to learn how Americans have achieved the rights for the LGBTQIA+ community, but understand we still have a long way to go. A time to shine and show the younger generations they are loved for who they are; they are accepted for who they love; they matter.

Any suggestions for how people can help support their LGBTQIA+ friends and family?

​Listen to the LGBTQIA+ youth and check out The Trevor Project. Advocate for our rights and stay informed by following Human Rights Campaign. Educate yourself and others on the struggles for the LGBTQIA+ community & get involved locally. And always remember: love conquers hate.

Any family, friends, or co-workers that you want to shout out?

I work with a team of rockstars, but I want to throw a special shout-out to Jolene, my co-manager. We’ve worked together in Moorhead for 4+ years and her support through personal matters and more has never ceased to amaze me. I find myself incredibly lucky to have landed in this career with her by my side.

Thank you, Audra, for sharing your story with us!

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