Executive director of S.I. Pride Center honored for her accomplishments


STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Before Carol Bullock was a staple in the LGBTQ+ community, she worked at Staples.

Following a 30-year career in sales and operations with the office supply giant, Bullock was unsure about her next steps. Becoming the next executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island wasn’t on her radar.

“[Surrogate Judge] Matt Titone was actually the one who brought this opportunity to my attention and told me to send my resume. I always had an interest in not-for-profit, but I’ve never done anything like this,” she recalled.

Buoyed by the support from her friend who is the executive director of Eden II Programs, Dr. Joanne Gerenser, Bullock attended meetings with the Staten Island Not for Profit Association and spoke with many influential individuals from the local non-profit sector.

“I was interviewing for other regional director sales positions with other companies, so when I went into the interview with the Pride Center, I was so relaxed. If I didn’t get it, I thought, ‘I’ve never been in non-profit before, so they may have dodged a bullet,’” laughed Bullock. “I’m confident that whatever we do in our lives, it’s all about dealing with people. And when you’re running an organization — to some degree — it’s like running a business as well. So, I felt confident in that regard.”

That confidence was apparent in the interview, as Bullock was named the new executive director in December 2017. She replaced Ralph W. Vogel, the organization’s first executive director when the Pride Center of Staten Island Inc. was officially incorporated by New York State and received its IRS 501c3 status in June 2013.

While the Pride Center of Staten Island was a relatively new organization, promoting the overall physical, mental and emotional well-being of Staten Island’s LGBTQ+ people was not a new concept. However, that didn’t mean Bullock knew what to expect.

“During the first couple of weeks, I would go home and tell my wife something that I learned or an experience that someone shared with me. If you looked at my life, it was pretty simple. I dealt with coming out, but I didn’t have a lot of the challenges that I didn’t even realize were out there, quite frankly. So, really understanding some of the things that go on day-to-day and the challenges, it just blew me away,” said Bullock. “To be honest, that’s what fed my passion in the early executive director years.”

Those who know the executive director will tell you she’s not afraid of change. In fact, when she was at Staples, Bullock would welcome opportunities to open new stores or lead new programs. The same holds true at the Pride Center of Staten Island.

“Unfortunately, mental health counseling is heavily in demand right now. When I started, we had one or two mental health counselors. And now, we’re up to almost 11, including interns,” said Bullock. “It’s understanding the need and where that needs to go. We didn’t have many services for transgender individuals. So, one of my goals was to get funding and provide a lot more services, such as support groups and other programs. We have added programming that’s relevant to the needs of the community, but some of it has stayed with the core programming.”

Another significant change came this past spring when, after operating out of the St. George headquarters for more than half a decade, the organization moved its headquarters to Willow Avenue in Clifton. Bullock said the board made it “very clear during that first interview” that they were looking for someone who could find a new space for the center.

“COVID really pushed us, because I was home at night and thinking, ‘How would we be able to do programming in our old space?’ People couldn’t socially distance, so there was no way it would work,” she said. “If you walk into our new building and our space, administrative is on one side, and programming is on the other. It was a really well-thought-out design.”

For her accomplishments, Bullock is being honored with a Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Award, which she will receive in the Not-For-Profit Businessperson category. The awards — which are presented by the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce and the Staten Island Advance — honor the memory of Louis R. Miller, a businessman and West Brighton resident who was also a community leader.

What makes Bullock a great community leader is her willingness to meet with individuals with varying viewpoints. She said she is always ready to hold meaningful discussions with others, especially those with opposing backgrounds and beliefs.

“Another part of the learning that I had to do coming from the private sector into the not-for-profit world was that I had to get to know our elected officials. I’m not afraid to meet with someone. My philosophy has always been: Seek first to understand. I love to have conversations and educate,” said Bullock. “You shouldn’t go in with this attitude that you don’t want to deal with someone. That’s the opposite for me. From my perspective, I think if you don’t deal with people who don’t understand or agree, you’re never going to change things.”

Part of the territory of being the executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island is when you speak to the local community, you’re speaking on behalf of the thousands of Islanders in the LGBTQ+ community. Bullock is comfortable with that.

“I can’t tell you how many times when I first started and I would go to events and introduce myself and who I work for, and people would say, ‘It’s 2020. Why do we need a Pride Center?’ And I would say, “Well, let me tell you,’” she recalled. “Any time I get that, it’s an opportunity for me to educate that individual and tell them there’s still many challenges going on against anyone in our community. The struggle is real.

“It’s not just that we want equal marriage. There’s so much more than that. There are everyday challenges that people face,” she said.

In the face of those challenges, the LGBTQ+ community is fortunate to have Carol Bullock in their corner.

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Recipients of the Louis R. Miller Awards are recognized as effective business leaders and for their outstanding contributions to the local community. Awards are given out in four categories: Emerging, Established, Master, and Not-For-Profit. The honorees will be recognized during the annual Louis R. Miller Business Leadership Awards Breakfast on Wednesday, Feb. 16. For tickets, visit www.sichamber.com or call the Chamber at 718-727-1900.

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Current occupation and title: Executive director of the Pride Center of Staten Island

Hometown: West Brighton for the past two years and Rockland County prior to that.

Past occupations and titles: Some former roles at Staples include: district sales manager in the Commercial Print and Marketing Division; district manager; Copy and Print Center area manager; regional sales manager, and general manager

Community involvement: Eden II Programs, Back to Basics, Staten Island Not For Profit Association, SI4SI with Project Hospitality

Some of my life goals include: Traveling the world.

The best part of my job: Advocating for equal rights. The ability to make Staten Island a more accepting community.

The most difficult part of my job: See question above! 😊

My life philosophy: Do the right thing and seek first to understand.

I am most proud of: My team at the Pride Center and the work they do and the relentless effort they put in to help the LGBTQ+ community on Staten Island.

Something that no one knows about me: I showed Hunters & Jumpers (horses) nationally when I was younger.

Personal interests and hobbies: Traveling, hiking and spending time with my wife and pup.

I laugh at: Good shows like Schitt’s Creek.

I admire: Other not-for-profit leaders and community leaders who look to make Staten Island a better place every day.



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