100 Women We Love: Class of 2017

Every June, GO compiles a select list of talented tastemakers, influencers and all-around inspirational women who are making their mark on the LGBT community and on the world at large.

Debbie Helsel

Photo by Shawn Singer

As the Executive Director at Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge in Orlando, Fla., Helsel has her dream job: “seeing animals be given their freedom.” A licensed wildlife rehabilitator, Helsel says she joined Back to Nature simply because she loves wildlife, “and someone has to stand up and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” “It is an honor to care for God’s creations,” she says, and under her helm, the refuge has grown from “3.5 acres behind an automotive garage” to “a lush 20-acre Green Place property that is part of the wildlife corridor, in partnership with the local county government.” Now eagles can build their nests without worry, and other wildlife can traverse the space without feeling closed in. An out lesbian, Helsel wants that feeling of freedom to extend to humans as well. “We are all in perfect divine perfection, just as we were designed to be,” she says. “It is so important to be who you are and not who everyone else thinks you should be.” Luckily, Helsel has had only positive experiences in her work. “I have been very supported and worked extremely hard to get where I am today,” she says. “I’ve held leadership roles in almost every job I have had. My personal life has never been questioned or thrown in my face. I’ve been allowed to be free to be who I am.”—TB


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