On a recent afternoon, Manager Jimmy Gale was sorting through a mountain of donations at the "Everything Under the Rainbow" thrift store. A selection of fur coats had just come in, and Gale was excited to find one that would work perfectly for a Cruella de Vil Halloween costume. Gale is obsessed with Disney villains and loves to dress in drag. The 28-year-old is also HIV positive.
When he's not working at the thrift store, Gale runs an HIV clinic and three support groups at the Rainbow Community Center (RCC) on the other side of Todos Santos Plaza, above Starbucks. "Everything Under the Rainbow" opened in May as a creative way to help fund programs at the RCC, which serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) community.
Concord's "Gay Goodwill"
Despite being tucked away on Pacheco Street, just a few doors down from Planned Parenthood and a Christian bookstore, word is spreading about Concord's very own "gay Goodwill," as Gale calls it. "Every week we're making more friends," he said, adding that residents and businesses around Todos Santos Plaza have been extremely supportive.
, for example, has started cleaning up its lost and found collection about once a month and donating it to the new neighborhood thrift store. Other businesses, like , have posted flyers for Everything Under the Rainbow in store windows and on bulletin boards.
So far, business seems to be booming. Donations are pouring in — more than the store can handle — and the weekend sidewalk sales are attracting new customers. Everything Under the Rainbow also has two years of rent and utilities already paid for, thanks to a grant awarded for the job training program, which gives LGBT youth an opportunity to come gain work experience in the store.
Paying it Forward
Gale found the Rainbow Community four years ago, just two weeks after being diagnosed with HIV. He had also just lost his job and his house and was "in need of some serious support," Gale recalls. He joined a men's group, which built him back up and taught him how to take care of himself, he says.
"It's really easy to feel alone," said Gale. "There's still a lot of shame and stigma behind HIV. When I could finally hold my head up again, it became important to remind everyone else that they can too."
Now Gale shares his story at community colleges across the county as part of his HIV education and prevention work.
"When I go into a college classroom and they find out that I'm the same age as them — that's a big wake-up call."
He also does regular drag shows at , where he uses his time with the microphone to talk about the Rainbow Community Center and fundraising efforts.
Gale lives in Antioch and travels on the bus for two-and-a-half hours every day to work in Concord. He has been keeping his own HIV in check with medication and a positive attitude, he says. But recently, his salary went above the cut off for his low-income, county-provided health coverage and Gale found himself without health insurance.
"Hopefully Obamacare will kick in soon," said Gale. "Because once it does, people with pre-existing conditions like me can cannot be turned away for health care. So, fingers crossed."
In the mean time, Gale will keep on smiling. "I'm going to live a long and healthy life and hopefully a happy one," said Gale. "That's what I just try to remind myself. As long as you stay positive, your health will stay there as well."
Everything Under the Rainbow
2095 Pacheco St., Suite B, Concord
Thurs, Fri, Sat: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For sales and updates, check out the Everything Under the Rainbow Facebook page.
Have you been to Everything Under the Rainbow? What did you think of the store? Share your experience in the comments below.