BFTS Leadership

Meet The Founders

Jeffrey Newman

Jeffrey Newman

Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director

Jeffrey’s been championing social issues as far back as he remembers. He was an early crusader in the fight against HIV and AIDS, at a time when there was much fear and stigma about the epidemic. At 27, Jeffrey chaired AIDS Walk Miami. He’s also been an advocate for gay rights; and in 1999, his became the first gay wedding to be streamed live on the internet, to an audience of one million, before marriage equality was even a thing.

Testing HIV positive in 2001, Jeffrey is outspoken about his own journey with the virus, using it to help others struggling. In 2013, he launched PositivelyJeffrey, his advocacy arm to prove “being positive is more than just a status,” as well as encourage people to get involved in social justice and effect change. HIV Plus Magazine names him “eighth most amazing person of 2016.”

One of Jeffrey’s true passions is helping at-risk and homeless LGBT youth, both as a mentor, and as a vocal advocate to prevent suicide.

He began working with the homeless in 2009, as a volunteer and team leader, twice a week, at a Brooklyn-based food pantry and soup kitchen. “It’s about treating people with compassion, dignity, and respect,” he says. “We are all in this together. I can’t just sit by and do nothing.”

Along with Jayson, he also sits on the national board of Blankets To The Streets, which has given out nearly 60,000 blankets since 2014.

Jayson Conner

Jayson Conner

Co-Founder and Co-Executive Director

Jayson is a long time advocate for the homeless. Since 2009, he has been a lead volunteer with at a Brooklyn-based food pantry and soup kitchen, twice a week. He also tirelessly hands out more than 1,000 emergency thermal blankets during the winter to folks on the streets in NYC. Often, he will go into McDonald’s or whatever is nearby, and buy food to hand out.

For Jayson, BFTS takes on an even deeper meaning. From 2003 to 2004, Jayson was homeless himself; first in San Francisco, then New York City. “It was soul-crushing. You never know where you’ll find respite day after day, or if you’ll eat or find warmth. One time, I fell asleep in the park, and woke up to find my camera stolen,” he says. “Another time, a friend who was letting me crash on his couch, locked me out, in the dead of winter, with no shoes on, because he had a date over.”

What finally changed was someone showing him compassion and helping him find his footing. “I’m grateful to have survived. I can’t imagine helping others who are out there, trying to survive.”

Sober since 2015, Jayson is open about his struggles with alcohol and drug addiction as well as body dysmorphia, something he often talks about on social media.

Aside from BFTS, Jayson, along with Jeffrey, sits on the national board of Blankets To The Streets, which has given out nearly 60,000 blankets since 2014.

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