Meet Jeff Wynne, co founder of FRWSD

November 3, 2016

Member feature series by John Lockhart

In 1981 when you co-founded Front Runners, your fitness game was running, flash forward 35 years, and what’s the 2016 game?

The game has changed due to a knee injury, but it’s based on what I learned from Front Runners during the early years. I’m out walking every week in Mission Trails Regional Park at an easy pace, and I feel fantastic! Front Runners was my first positive experience at being an athlete, which I never thought I would be.

What are some highlights from the club’s early years?

What we know today as the LGBT community was not well known or widely out in 1981. Often, being gay was not viewed as OK. I was 35, newly divorced, coming out, and loving it! Then AIDS hit. We knew nothing, yet our club came together to help. One way was founding Blood Sisters, women in the club who donated blood because gay men weren’t allowed to. Another was when thirty men in the club volunteered for a long-term UCSD health study of gay men and ‘GRID,’ as AIDS was known then. We hoped that being part of the study might be part of the solution.

What’s your take on the club’s growth and its future?

I like what I see. The club’s website is my main source of information. I’m impressed with the leadership history and leaders today, the increased membership and inclusiveness.

You travel the world, how do you handle fitness while traveling?

What I learned from Front Runners has stayed with me through the years. I love to travel, which requires high energy and a willingness to push boundaries. During a 2014 month-long trip to Myanmar, I experienced brutal heat and humidity, challenging conditions and being far away from modern life. For example, my lodging for one isolated week was in former Japanese Army quarters of WWII. Other challenging and rewarding destinations include scuba diving in Tahiti, and exploring the Amazon River by boat.

Back home, you are an accomplished grants writer with a winning formula?

To succeed as a grants writer, you need natural curiosity, ability to tell a story and how to conceptualize issues, identify solutions, and pursue the best routes to success. My main grant-writing work has been with Stepping Stone, one of the nation’s only alcohol and drug treatment facilities specializing in the LGBT community. We’ve had lots of success. I am thankful for that success and appreciate the recognition.

You have enjoyed a career designing, exhibiting and marketing specialized jewelry; what brought you to this arena?

Working with different types of minerals and gems, including pearls, I have created mainly necklaces and pendants. It’s rewarding work, but with a limited niche market. A few years ago I was honored with an exhibit at the Mingei International Museum in San Diego.

Tell me about your long-time commitment to Diversionary Theatre as patron, donor, and grants writer.

Crisis-driven, my Diversionary work began about 20 years ago when the theater had no fulltime executive director, no money for productions, poor facilities, a building in warlike condition and few volunteers. I helped raise money from accounts receivable and other survival fund-raising efforts. We even put on a fund-raising show with the gay porn star, Jeff Stryker! A new board took hold, the city, county and state arts organizations were lobbied for support, and the first fund-raising gala was held. Once stabilized Diversionary began moving forward. Today, the theater enjoys a high level of artistic accomplishment, a sustainable budget, and an enthusiastic and supportive audience.