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Friends in need

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Cholene Espinozaand Ellen Ratner

As the desperation of Hurricane Katrina's victims played out on her television in New York City, Cholene Espinoza thought, I cannot go on until I at least try to help them. Then, unlike most of us, she took action. Never mind that Espinoza, a United Airlines pilot, and partner Ellen Ratner, a White House correspondent, are among the most high-powered of lesbian power couples. Throughout 2006 the two made room in their lives for trips to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, where they used their energy and ingenuity to help residents repair their lives.

Ratner and Espinoza first delivered a U-Haul truckload of supplies but ended up buying land to help community members build an education center and public swimming pool in DeLisle, Miss. To raise money, Espinoza wrote a memoir, Through the Eye of the Storm, outlining her adventures as an Air Force pilot in the first Gulf War and an embedded reporter in the current one. Ratner, a Fox News commentator who's also syndicated on radio stations across the country, donated the proceeds of her book Ready, Set, Talk! At this point the couple have raised almost $1 million toward their goal of $1.3 million; the facility is set to open in 2007. Hundreds of volunteers and donors have poured money and time into this rural community based on their connection to Espinoza and Ratner's work.

"If someone told us 18 months ago that two lesbians, a couple, would partner with two United Methodist [Church] ministers of mostly African-American congregations, white and African-American members of a rural Mississippi community, the YMCA, and [Republican] Gov. Haley Barbour to build an education center and a public swimming pool--when, four decades ago, many in this same region chose to fill in public pools rather than integrate them--we would have referred them to a local psychiatrist," Espinoza writes to The Advocate. "We learned that our differences don't have to create divisions."

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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