FAQ's About Us
What is your history with the Villages & this club?
Isn't central FL a conservative Republican stronghold?
Yes, Central Florida has historically been viewed as a Republican stronghold. Generally speaking people tended towards the "right," but as TV's has grown to a 130,000+ population drawing people from urban as well as rural areas, both Democrats & Republicans have come to be well represented. In addition, attitudes are shaped by the fact that the vast majority of us are transplants from somewhere else. As a result, we are anxious to establish new friendships and alliances. This tends to create an atmosphere of a "live and let live" philosophy which frequently softens some of the harsher attitudes.
How about "homophobia" in the Villages?
We certainly can see examples of prejudice just like every other city in the United States. But mostly what we see is the positive progress of the LGBTQ Movement over the past 20 years or more. People are more educated about issues relating to sexual orientation than they were in years past & are more willing to accept that not all families are of the "June & Wally Cleaver" variety.
Any regrets about the move here?
Absolutely none! We remain as happy today as we were when we bought our first home here. We may be even happier now because we have gained a broad range of friends and belong to a terrifically supportive LGBTQ community.
Is The Villages a perfect place?
No, it is not. But, we have yet to find anything that is of major concern that we could not work with TV's staff to resolve. The Villages is not for everyone! What I suggest to those who are thinking of moving here is that you do all the homework necessary to make your own decision: do the "Visitation Program;" rent a house for a month; participate in as many activities as you can; and, ask every question that pops into your head.
We maintain the website & a Facebook page to keep people informed. We provide forums for "family" activities of all sorts. Come join us for some of these & see if our lifestyle here is what you need for yourself.
I'm not a resident; can I still participate?
This is a tricky - and often - sensitive issue. As an officially recognized Resident Lifestyle Group (a club) we must abide by certain rules and regulations as outlined by The Villages Recreation Department. The guidelines set very specific limits for "nonresident" attendance. In essence, for any Club meeting or event in which we have been granted a room at "no charge," either a Resident ID or valid Visitors ID is required. If the room has been rented from the Recreation Department, an ID is not required.
How do I know if I can attend an event?
This information is included in our advertising of events for the RFF Club & private individuals who may sponsor events/parties. Please note whether a Villages Resident ID is required.
How do I join?
It's easy for anyone who is a Villages resident & wants to "join" our club. Simply come to our meetings, parties, or events! It's very much like the country clubs we all become members of when we buy a house in TV's. If you choose to participate in Rainbow Family & Friends activities or sign-up for our e-mail newsletter then you are an "official" part of our community.
Dues? Membership Lists?
There are no dues and no formal membership lists. We are respectful and cautious about personal information. This practice reduces concerns our participants may have about being "identified."
Where does the $$ go?
We are a non-profit organization that operates on a very narrow margin. None of the Board receives pay for the work that they do for this organization. Ticket proceeds cover basic costs and entertainer fees. The remaining monies are donated to local charities. Website fees are nominal since our webmaster/designer/tech and other members of the Board donate their time, expertise, & talent to the community.
Meet Our Founders
On Reaching Our 10th Anniversary
It seems like just yesterday.
And yet it was in August 2007 that history was made here in The Villages where sixty-four (64) people gathered at Bacall Recreation Center for the first meeting of the Rainbow Family & Friends Club. Our intentions that day were simple:
That day was the first step in creating our identity.
Our goals then were simple and basically involved bringing people together so friendships could be formed and we could all clearly know we were never alone. There were hurdles to overcome, with some adamantly resisting the idea of increasing our visibility primarily out of fear, and maybe even to some degree, shame. But we persisted, guided by the knowledge that if we simply brought people together amazing things would happen. And, we are proud to say, that is exactly what we have watched develop over the years.
The LGBTQ population has expanded dramatically both in and around The Villages.
There are literally thousands of "Family" members here from all walks of life. We gather freely and publicly at Bonifay Country Club every Thursday night to socialize, meet new friends, and to simply enjoy life among our own. Volunteers, both active with the Club and independently, work tirelessly on our behalf to keep us informed, to organize our sports events or parties, to teach us to dance, to bring us entertainment, and so much more. We are visible, we are vibrant, and we are respected!
We’ve certainly had our high’s & lows.
sometimes making good decisions leading to successes and at other moments learning important lessons from our lesser choices. But our overriding goal has always been to help create a positive, fun and loving community others would like to be a part of and that is exactly what we’re experiencing at this point. Just look around at the various gatherings to see how many “new” faces you see. Our "Family" is certainly growing so please make sure sure to say “Hello” to our newest members as you encounter them.
Our initial goal was to simply bring people together.
We added “The Power of Love” within a short period, which reflected the groups desire to give back to an array of charitable projects. As of this writing these efforts have resulted in nearly $150,000 having been passed on to a variety of causes. We will continue this tradition passing on any proceeds from our events because as a community that is who we are — responsible, concerned and caring.
As we move forward our lists of goals will include:
Finally, we want to thank everyone for their support over all these years.
So many have stepped up with their time, energy and resources to make our efforts successful. Without you, not much would have been accomplished so we remain deeply grateful. We look forward to a future filled with continued growth, acceptance and love.
With warmest regards,
Wendy, Peggy, Bill, Jill, Karen, Susan, Joyce, Lissa, Lourdes, DJ & all past members
Karen Wink, left, of the Village of Duval; Joyce Wiegand, of the Village of Duval; Deborah Shea, of the Village of Duval; and Peggy Garvin, of The Village of Sunset Pointe, are members of the Rainbow Family and Friends Club of The Villages.
Being a member of the LGBT community can make some things in life a little more difficult — including planning for retirement and finding a place that accepts you.
In The Villages, seniors are creating open, comfortable spaces for themselves and others like them.
A study by AARP found that 3 in 4 members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community across the U.S. are concerned about having support from family and friends as they age. The 2018 study surveyed 1,762 people ages 45 and up.
Wendy O’Donnell, president of Rainbow Family and Friends, said she understands these fears.
“(We) run the risk of being socially isolated,” said O’Donnell, of the Village of Sunset Pointe. “(We) run into problems in the older years because we, for the most part, don’t have children.”
In 2002, she and her wife, Peggy, moved from San Diego to The Villages and weren’t sure what to expect from the community.
“In early years, I found myself looking over my shoulder a little bit,” O’Donnell said. “There were certain times and certain places that I thought it was best to just pass.”
Five years after moving to The Villages, the couple founded Rainbow Family and Friends, which welcomes both members and allies of the LGBT community. Together, members participate in all sorts of activities — from sports to parades and dances.
June is Pride Month, which recognizes the impact LGBT people have had on the world.
In 2016, about 690,000 Sunshine State residents identified themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a think tank that focuses on LGBT issues.
“There’s a great deal more acceptance,” O’Donnell said.
Still, studies by the American Psychological Association show LGBT individuals are more likely to experience employment discrimination, mental and physical health disparities, and socioeconomic disadvantages.
Resources are available to help, but victims of discrimination or violence may have trouble reaching out.
LGBT seniors “tend to go back into the closet because they’re afraid of being harassed,” said Andrea Spencer, vice president of communications at ElderSource, an support organization.
Gay and lesbian couples interested in moving to The Villages frequently contact O’Donnell via the Rainbow Family and Friends website.
“Come on down here,” O’Donnell tells them.
For more information about Rainbow Family and Friends, visit rainbowfamilyvillagesfl.com.
LGBT Groups In and Around The Villages
Rainbow Family and Friends
Meets from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursdays at Bonifay Country Club, 1033 Pinellas Place
PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays)
Meets from 6:30 to 8 p.m. the first and third Mondays of each month at Hampton Inn & Suites, 11727 NE 63rd Drive, Lady Lake
Human and Equal Rights
Support and Advocacy