Hometown Heroes

Elena Thurston named Queen Creek Hometown Hero for bringing Pride and Joy to community

Local LGBTQ nonprofit works to ensure all have advocacy


In the 21st century, a part of modern America, everyone despite public perceptions around color, creed, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation, deserves an advocate and a safe place to go.

Based in Queen Creek, the Pride and Joy Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to being a support system for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, or in question experiencing homelessness or considering self-harm.

“Their work includes teaching suicide awareness and prevention skills as well as self-awareness skills and harm reduction to the LGBTQ community and the allies that love them,” said Cori Taber, a local Realtor based in the Town of Queen Creek.

“They seek to empower individuals, families, and communities by bringing people together and sharing their knowledge. Just this past month, Ms. Thurston’s organization has produced 5 podcast interviews, multiple media articles, 4 virtual classes for LGBTQ college students, and 3 Lunch N’ Learn inclusion classes for small businesses.”

And, the list doesn’t stop there, Ms. Taber explains.

“Elena has also been featured on her own Ted Talk!” she points out.

The Queen Creek Independent is pleased to announce local resident, Elena Thurston, founder of the Pride and Joy Foundation, as the February 2021 Hometown Hero bestowed in the Trailblazer category. Ms. Thurston was nominated for this category by Ms. Taber and fellow Queen Creek resident, Somer Ricks.

Ms. Taber says she has witnessed first-hand the tangible impact of Ms. Thurston’s work in the Queen Creek community.

“I myself am a relatively recent addition to Queen Creek as well as a member of the LGBTQ community,” she shared. “I have worked in community building, harm reduction and visibility work in the nonprofit field for the past 20 years with Native American LGBTQ organizations, and I can attest to the value of the work Ms. Thurston brings to our Queen Creek community.”

For many, but not all, growing up a part of the LGBTQ Arizona community can be a tumultuous experience.

“It is a known statistic that the LGBTQ population suffers homelessness and suicidal behaviors at dramatically higher rates than the general population, and this is especially true for teens and young adults,” Ms. Taber explained of the at times life-and-death circumstances. “It is also my opinion that the urgency of this work is only compounded by the isolation and increased financial and physical suffering brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ms. Taber offers the idea the work of Ms. Thurston is making a real difference.

“As a city, we are truly blessed to have the advocacy and dedication to community health exemplified by Elena Thurston and her work,” she said. “For these and so many other reasons, I feel she is more than worthy of this award.”

Those interested in reaching out to Ms. Thurston may learn more by connecting at speaking@prideandjoyfoundation.com.

The Queen Creek Independent, along with East Valley Institute of Technology, Sterling Services, and the Queen Creek Olive Mill salute Ms. Thurston as this month’s Queen Creek Hometown Heroes Awards recipient.

Nominations sought

Submissions will continuously be sought from the Queen Creek community in multiple categories. All nominations to aznews@newszap.com will be reviewed, and monthly winners will be selected based on their community contributions.

Nominations should include name, email address and phone number along with the category of nomination, some details about the person being nominated and what accomplishments they have done.

A nomination form is here.


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