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Local LA couple raises $300,000 after lawmakers defund Univ. of Tenn. LGBT center

Local LA couple raises $300,000 after lawmakers defund Univ. of Tenn. LGBT center | LGBT Community Centers |
A fundraising campaign launched by a gay University of Tennessee graduate and his husband raised more than $300,000 on Feb. 1 in the kickoff event for a plan to establish a private $3 million endowment to permanently fund the LGBT Pride Center at the university’s campus in Knoxville.

Chad Goldman, an alumnus of the university, and his husband, Los Angeles businessman, philanthropist and LGBT rights advocate Brian Pendleton, helped organize the Feb. 1 fundraiser at the Nashville home of another University of Tennessee gay alumnus, Gary Bynum.

Pendleton told the Washington Blade that the three men and many others were motivated to support the fundraising drive in response to a bill passed by the Tennessee Legislature in 2016 that eliminated state funding for the university’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion.

The Pride Center was part of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion. It lost its funding when the legislature defunded the diversity office. Last year, Pendleton and Goldman helped raise $9,000 to keep the Pride Center open and functioning.

“It’s unfortunate we are in this place because of the politics of the legislature, but this effort is not at all about politics,” Goldman told USA Today Network Tennessee. “It’s just about funding a place for LGBTQ and questioning students to go where they can find fellowship and guidance and support at a time that’s very difficult,” he told the news service.

Although the bill approved by the Republican-controlled legislature doesn’t specifically mention the Pride Center, it was introduced when several conservative lawmakers took aim at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Among other things, critics of the office accused it of promoting “political correctness” by encouraging the use of gender-neutral pronouns and supporting an annual student-initiated event called Sex Week, which involves panel discussions and forums addressing issues including sexuality, sexual assault prevention, and sexually transmitted diseases.

University officials have said most of the funding for the Sex Week events comes from student activity fees rather than state funding.

The bill passed by the legislature took effect in May 2016 after Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam announced he would neither sign nor veto the measure thus allowing it to become law without his signature. One of its two provisions reallocated all funds in the budget for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for fiscal year 2016-2017 to scholarships for minority students enrolled in the university’s engineering programs.

The second provision permanently bans the University of Tennessee from using state funds “to promote the use of gender-neutral pronouns, to promote or inhibit the celebration of religious holidays, or to fund or support Sex Week.”

The bill’s reallocation of state funds for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to engineering student scholarships technically ended in May 2017. But university officials were reluctant to immediately restore full funding for the diversity office out of concern that the legislature would take action again to block the funds.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), a lead sponsor of the State Senate version of the bill, has accused the diversity office of being “very political and polarizing” and giving a “horrible reputation” to the university and the state.

“If they clean up their act, then I’ll focus my attention on something else,” USA Today Network Tennessee quoted him as saying. “But if that office continues to become very radical and polarizing, then I will of course focus my attention back on that to take that money away and apply it to something very useful instead of something very divisive,” he said.

With that political sentiment as a backdrop, Pendleton told the Blade the effort to support the Pride Center through private funding was all the more needed. He noted that university officials are highly supportive of the effort to establish the independent endowment as are other elected officials in the state.

Among those attending the Feb. 1 fundraising event for the endowment in Nashville were University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport, the dean of the university’s College of Arts and Sciences Theresa Lee, and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), whose district includes Nashville.

“We’ll be raising money in cities all around the country and of course including Knoxville,” Pendleton said. “But we’ll be in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., New York City, Los Angeles, making sure that people from all over have an opportunity to help support the Pride Center,” he said.

More information about the fundraising campaign, which is called Vol Means All, can be accessed at
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Triple Trailblazer: LGBT Detroit Makes History for a Third Time –

Triple Trailblazer: LGBT Detroit Makes History for a Third Time – | LGBT Community Centers |
LGBT Detroit is located at 20025 Greenfield Road in Detroit. Find out more information about the organization online at The organization’s Executive Director Curtis Lipscomb will be presenting workshop on preserving the memory of Detroit’s gay spaces at LGBT Detroit on Saturday, Jan. 26 at the Mackinaw West room on the 5th floor of the Marriott in Detroit’s Renaissance Center. Find out more on

From the outside, LGBT Detroit might look like many similar nonprofit organizations, but if one digs a little deeper they’ll find that its been making history both in the city’s LGBTQ and African-American communities since it was founded over 20 years ago. It got its roots in 1994 as the Kick Publishing Company, achieving the title of the third black American LGBT media company created in the U.S. A year later, it kicked off its Hotter Than July celebration, making it the world’s second oldest black pride. Now in 2019, LGBT Detroit is making history for a third time with its recently acquired expansion; after purchasing the building next door to its current Greenfield Road location, it’s become the “largest property of a black-owned LGBT center in North America,” said Curtis Lipscomb, LGBT Detroit’s executive director.

“So, we are now a campus,” Lipscomb said. “We’re looking at a combined 6,000 square foot unit of space where expanded programming occurs [next door] while admin stays here, because we were doing all three types of work — admin, event, programming — here, in our older space.”

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Tyrone Carr appointed as interim director of LGBT Center

Tyrone Carr appointed as interim director of LGBT Center | LGBT Community Centers |
Tyrone Carr was named interim director of Ohio University’s LGBT Center on Wednesday.

Carr has worked at the university since 1991 and has advanced the university’s diversity and inclusion efforts throughout his past 28 years. 

“I am very excited by this opportunity to serve OHIO’s LGBT community in an interim capacity,” said Carr of his recent appointment. “I have dedicated my life’s work to promoting a positive culture that celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. In this new capacity, and as a longtime ally of the LGBT community, I will continue to advance programming that ensures every member of our community is treated with equality and respect.”

Carr most recently acted in a dual-role at OU as executive director of the Interlink Alliance, reporting directly to President Duane Nellis, and special assistant for Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Gigi Secuban. 

He has experience with roles in student affairs, enrollment management, human resources and as a student advocate. Carr began his career in higher education as an administrator at Cabrini College in Pennsylvania and has been recognized throughout his career for his ability to build strong partnerships with constituents and stakeholders, according to the news release.

“In selecting an interim director, it was essential that a very deliberative decision be made to appoint someone who can provide a strong support system for students in our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities,” Secuban said in the news release. “Having worked with Ty closely in his role as Special Assistant, I am confident in his leadership talents and his commitment to this very important community.”

The university is planning to have a national search for a new director for the LGBT Center after delfin bautista was put on administrative leave on Jan. 10. Carr will continue providing services to students, faculty and staff who rely on the center until a new director is appointed.

The Division of Student Affairs will also provide support through various services, such as Counseling and Psychological Services, student staffing resources, safe zone training services across campus and assistance with referrals for non-related health related emergencies. In addition, several university faculty have offered to engage with the LGBT community “to provide ancillary services where needed,” according to the release.

“I am very excited by this opportunity to serve OHIO’s LGBT community in an interim capacity,” Carr said in the release. “I have dedicated my life’s work to promoting a positive culture that celebrates difference, challenges prejudice and ensures fairness. In this new capacity, and as a longtime ally of the LGBT community, I will continue to advance programming that ensures every member of our community is treated with equality and respect.”
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Shenandoah LGBTQ Center set to open in historic building

Shenandoah LGBTQ Center set to open in historic building | LGBT Community Centers |
The Shenandoah LGBTQ Center, which began operating in temporary office space in Staunton, Va., in August 2018, is scheduled to open its new offices and meeting space on Jan. 26 in Staunton’s historic Masonic Building.

Christopher Wood, the LGBTQ Center’s founder, and Emily Sproul, the Center’s executive director, gave the Washington Blade a tour of the soon-to-be-opened offices and meeting space in December.

The two noted that the Center’s new home is in the heart of downtown Staunton, which serves as a hub for Virginia’s expansive Shenandoah Valley.  

“The Shenandoah LGBTQ Center was announced on July 13, 2018 in response to the severe lack of resources available in the Shenandoah Valley and Greater Appalachian region for LGBTQ individuals and their families,” the Center states on its website.

Wood said new owners of the Masonic Building, which first opened in 1895 as a Masonic temple, are supportive of the Center’s mission and offered favorable terms on the Center’s lease.

Last weekend, Wood said he and others involved with the Center traveled to the Ikea store in Northern Virginia to buy office furniture and other items for the new space.

“So the space is being redone this coming weekend,” he said. “There’s a work day actually on Saturday,” he noted, when volunteers will help put the finishing touches on the new space.

Although LGBT people often face challenges in rural parts of the Shenandoah Valley, Wood said the new center is fortunate that city officials in Staunton, including the mayor, police chief, and city manager as well as the local business community, have been welcoming and supportive.

Wood and his husband own and operate a retail store in downtown Staunton not far from the LGBTQ Center’s new offices. He also serves as executive director of LGBT Tech, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for the LGBT community on technology issues.

He said an important role of the LGBTQ Center will be to provide access to technology for those who visit the Center, especially LGBT youth, such as computer terminals and advice on devices such as smart phones.
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LGBT Life Center to provide primary care for those in LGBT community

LGBT Life Center to provide primary care for those in LGBT community | LGBT Community Centers |

ORFOLK, Va. (WSET) -- The LGBT Life Center in Norfolk is now offering primary health care for people in the LGBT community.

The center has offered a place for people to get testing done for years, but a new partnership with the CAN Community Health is allowing them to now offer treatment options, thanks to the doctors and nurses of CAN.

"They do the medical and the clinical component, we do the linkage to care, retention and care, follow up to care, ensure that people continue to access services," Stacie Walls-Beegle, the CEO of the LGBT Life Center said.

The new clinic specializes in the testing and treatment of HIV, Hepatitis C, and other sexually transmitted infections reported WAVY.

"When we tested somebody and they tested positive, it would mean they needed to go to the Health Department, or they needed to go to an infectious disease doctor, or they needed to go someplace else," Walls-Beegle said. "We wanted to create a system where you test positive, we can treat you right now."

The center will also be offering an on-site pharmacy.

"All those different things that happen in somebody's life who is, who are LGBT, it's not easy to talk about all of that if you're not in an environment where it's a safe space and its welcoming," said Walls-Beegle. "Stigma can be an awful barrier to being able to access services that are critical to your health and wellness and so we're hoping to decrease some of those barriers."

The center will treat everyone, regardless of their insurance status. The pharmacy will not open for a few months, but the center operates a mail-order pharmacy and will continue to do so until the new pharmacy is up and running.

The LGBT Life Center and CAN also plan to open a clinic in Hampton in the spring.

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OU President Comments As Protesters Decry Removal Of LGBT Center Director

OU President Comments As Protesters Decry Removal Of LGBT Center Director | LGBT Community Centers |

ATHENS — Ohio University’s president reiterated the school’s commitment to supporting the LGBTQ+ community Friday as a group of people protested the removal of the LGBT Center’s director.

Dr. Duane Nellis, during a meeting with reporters at Cutler Hall, repeated earlier statements by the university that the decision to remove delfin bautista (who uses they/them pronouns and doesn’t capitalize their name) was not made lightly.

“I certainly want to thank [bautista] for the service they have provided to Ohio University,” Nellis said. “We will be transition toward a national search [for a new director].”

A group of protesters gathered outside of Cutler Hall during the meeting hoping to get answers to why bautista was removed in the manner they were. Some in the crowd who work with the LGBT Center, who did not wish to be identified, wondered what the move means for the future of LGBT Center resources.

Nellis did not know the specifics of why Gigi Secuban, VP of Diversity and Inclusion, made the decision to remove bautista. But he did offer the university’s continued support and resources for diversity.

“I don’t think this decision in any way, in my opinion, lessens our strong commitment to the LGBT community and to our overall efforts in diversity and inclusion.”

He highlighted steps the university has taken to show a commitment to diversity that including the hiring of Secuban in May 2018 and allocating more funds for Diversity and Inclusion programs, which includes funds for additional staff at the LGBT Center.

As reported by WOUB News, bautista learned they no longer would be working at OU Thursday afternoon. They remain on paid administrative leave until the end of their contract which ends on June 30, 2019.  This leaves the LGBT Center without a director, assistant director, and office administrator ahead of a new semester beginning on Monday.

“I’ve asked [Secuban] that question as to how we plan to work on an interim basis because we need to make sure that we have robust support for the LGBT community,” Nellis said. “They’re an important part of our university family and we want to be there for them.”

A university representative said an interim director is in place for the first few days. The plan for interim leadership beyond that is still being worked out.

A group of people who participated in the protest came inside Cutler Hall to speak with Nellis about midway through his meeting with reporters and could be heard chanting outside the room after being asked to leave by a receptionist.

Campus police were called on the protesters and officers threatened to arrest the protesters if they did not leave the building. The group returned outside and there were no arrests.

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Threat Against Cal State Northridge Marks 3rd Such Incident In A Week « CBS Los Angeles

Threat Against Cal State Northridge Marks 3rd Such Incident In A Week « CBS Los Angeles | LGBT Community Centers |

NORTHRIDGE (CBSLA) – Cal State Northridge was investigating reports Wednesday of yet another threat against the university.

In a statement, CSUN said a post circulating on social media claimed the school’s Pride Center was allegedly being targeted.

The university did not provide additional details of the threat.

A heavy police presence Thursday is expected at the Pride Center – which supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and questioning university members.

The incident marked a third threat facing CSUN in the past week.

An expletive-filled letter was found at the university’s Redwood Hall Monday night, threatening to hurt faculty and students Wednesday – the start of final exams. The note also threatened Northridge Academy High School, which is located on CSUN’s campus.

Graffiti, including a swastika and the threat of a mass shooting, was found in a bathroom in Sierra Hall on Dec. 5.

Another incident of graffiti, including multiple swastikas and “121218,” in reference to Wednesday’s date, were found scrawled on a bathroom wall two weeks ago.

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JASMYN breaks ground for new service center for Jacksonville's homeless youth

JASMYN breaks ground for new service center for Jacksonville's homeless youth | LGBT Community Centers |

JASMYN, the Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network, kicked off a $700,000 building renovation project Monday that will help the city’s growing number of homeless young people.

The Youth Safety Net Resource Center will be part of JASMYN’s partnership with two other nonprofits, Youth Crisis Center and Changing Homelessness Inc., to meet service needs of homeless youth ages 18 to 24, many of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.

The center will be in a newly acquired building adjacent to JASMYN’s existing two-building campus at Peninsular Place and Chelsea Street in Riverside. Expected to open next summer, the center will offer case management, showers, hot meals, laundry and other services.

“The center will enable us to really focus on ... being the ‘front door’ for homeless youth,” said JASMYN CEO Cindy Watson, and give them a safe “place to land.”

The number of homeless youth in Jacksonville grew 145 percent between the 2017 and 2018 annual Point in Time homeless counts conducted by Changing Homelessness Inc., the lead agency in the local effort to end homelessness. Of the 90 homeless youth during that time by JASMYN, 85 percent of them identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning, Watson said.

The third JASMYN building was a gift from supporters Paul Schilling and James “Jay” Dutton, Vilano Beach doctors and philanthropists who also pledged a $150,000 matching grant toward the renovation. Five years ago, they bought and donated the organization’s second building.

The Chartrand Family Fund Foundation contributed $200,000 toward the latest project.

To have the safety net center opening in 2019 is particularly meaningful for JASMYN, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary the same year, Watson said.

Meanwhile, JASMYN will team up with Changing Homelessness and Youth Crisis Center to provide outreach, safety net drop-in services, coordinated intake, wrap-around linkage/case management services and emergency housing, with a goal of ending youth homelessness by 2020.

JASMYN will conduct outreach, manage the safety-net center and serve as the primary case management team for the LGBTQ youth served,among other things. Youth Crisis Center will provide emergency housing services at their Parental Home Road campus and all three agencies will coordinate referrals to the crisis center’s mental health and other services. Changing Homelessness will coordinate intake and services among its member agencies and lead grant funding applications

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the Source LGBT+ Center named nonprofit of the year | Local |

the Source LGBT+ Center named nonprofit of the year | Local | | LGBT Community Centers |

The Source LGBT+ Center, an advocacy group serving Tulare and Kings counties, was named Nonprofit of the Year by the Tulare Kings Hispanic Chamber of Commerce last week.

In a ceremony held Friday, Nov. 30 in Visalia, the local organization received the honor.

“It is my privilege and my honor to accept this award on behalf of The Source LGBT+ Center. It is our promise to continue our work and be worthy every day of this recognition,” Nick Vargas, Source co-founder, past President of the Board of Directors and Director of Development said in a release.

The Source LGBT+ Center was presented the award by TKHCC President Carlos Mendoza and Vice President Olga Duran during the ceremony.

The Source has served over 3,000 in its nearly three years of operation.

While headquartered in Visalia, the non-profit hosts monthly peer support groups at Kings County Behavioral Health. The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 13.

The Source LGBT+ Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

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Council for Exceptional Children Collaborates with Pride Center –

Council for Exceptional Children Collaborates with Pride Center – | LGBT Community Centers |
Education is a field that is ever-evolving; as made clear in the mission statement of the College of Saint Rose, students need to work to serve the needs of the times. Now more than ever students in Kindergarten through High School are feeling comfortable and confident expressing their true gender identity and sexuality. The Council for Exceptional Children, in partnership with the Pride Center of the Capital Region, held an event in the Carondelet Symposium on Tuesday, Nov. 27 to talk with future educators about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning issues for students in the classroom.

The chapter of the Council for Exceptional Children at Saint Rose is constantly planning events for their department’s students to participate in, but professional development events of this nature have been rare occurrences so far for the club. This past October they hosted Jon Gilroy, a speaker who has cerebral palsy and is a part of the LGBTQ+ community; nonetheless, president Jacquelyn Fossati and her team still searched to offer more.

“I was teaching at Arlington Central school district in LaGrangeville, New York this past summer,” said Fossati. “My co-teacher was telling me that it was a really good professional development to host as often times we don’t know how to address same sex parents… and how we can help out students with something that can be difficult for them.”

Kelsi Taylor, the professional development coordinator for the Council, found the Pride Center of the Capital Region when looking for someone “local” to come and facilitate the event. The Pride Center has been in operation since 1970, and serves 10 counties in the area. According to Taylor, the Pride Center already does a lot of outreach within local schools; they do assemblies for students and workshops for current educators.

The council for Exceptonal Children, in partnership with the Pride Center of the Capital Region, held a talk in Carondelet Symposium on Tuesday, Nov. 27
“I think it’s a really interesting topic,” said Taylor. “Especially because a lot of our members are prospective teachers. It’s something that needs to be talked about, and a lot of teachers that I have worked with in the field dance around the topic so I think it’s important to talk about and be aware of.”

The Council for Exceptional Children has always worked to promote inclusivity in classrooms. This event was no exception. The itinerary presented by the Pride Center’s Jen Maley-Wheeler and her intern included need to know definitions, good common practices, what to avoid doing in a classroom setting, challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth, and how to be a more inclusive ally and educator.

“The CEC has always promoted inclusivity in the classroom, and it’s more than just students with disabilities,” said vice president of the council and education major, Malcolm Brownwell. “This will send the message that all students should be welcomed in schools.”

The 25 students in attendance were offered a great deal through this first time academic partnership. Those who completed this professional development received a certificate of completion from the Council for Exceptional Children for their personal academic records.

Freshman english education major, Andrew Lamendola, said he learned things that he knows he will use in his classrooms for years to come. Other attendees such as Justin Campbell, Tristyn Koren, and Fossati herself concurred; this event was of great benefit to them in regards to their respective futures.

This upcoming semester the Council plans on hosting Safe Zone training for future educators and those who might work with LGBTQ+ youth in their future occupations. Those dates and further details will be posted on their various social media accounts when the new semester begins.

“It’s important that the students feel seen,” said Lauren D’Annibale, a former Saint Rose undergraduate and graduate education student. D’Annibale is currently a teacher at Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School, and member of the LGBTQ+ community herself.

“So many aren’t out to their friends, their families, sometimes not even to themselves, and it’s important that there is something stable in their lives that is supportive and open, and most importantly safe to turn to.”
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Affirmations Suspends Executive Director Search, Announces Layoffs –

Affirmations Suspends Executive Director Search, Announces Layoffs – | LGBT Community Centers |
In a Nov. 14 press release, Ferndale’s Affirmations LGBTQ community center announced that it has suspended its nearly year-long search for a replacement executive director and laid off three employees: Development Director Katie Koch, Education and Training Manager Becca Budde and Offices and Facilities Coordinator Ryan Fowler.

This notice come just days after the announcement of the community center’s Interim Executive Director Lilianna Reyes’ resignation, that officially went into effect Thursday of last week. The release went on to describe the financial struggles the organization has been facing in recent years.

“Over the past several years the cost of running a large community center like AFFIRMATIONS has outpaced the level of revenue. This has led to the continual utilization of reserve funds to supplement the ongoing shortfall,” read the release. “Thus far in 2018 a total of $80K was needed from reserve funds to offset center costs. This strategy is not sustainable for the long-term survival of the center.”
Board President Mike Flores said there was not a specific reason why the center’s financial struggles were announced when they were, but that the center had to “withdraw funds from the reserves to address cash flow concerns for the month of November.”
“In doing so, the board recognized that we need to take additional actions to prevent additional funds from being withdrawn from the reserves at this rate,” Flores said.

As funds stand now, Flores said that the organization has enough money left to keep the center open for another six months. The news of Affirmations’ financial woes came as a shock to many in the local LGBTQ community, especially as according to 2017 financial records the center ended last year with a surplus of funds.

“In 2017 there was a slight surplus which was (due to) the strong effort from the staff and that ED at the time,” he said. “Moving into 2018 again, grants and donations have to be applied for and have to be awarded on a yearly basis and unfortunately some grants did not come in as expected.”

Flores said that there is roughly $130,000 in grants that have yet to be awarded that are scheduled for 2019. He is hopeful that before the new year begins the center will have sent out year-end appeals for funding, and that he, along with the board, will have devised a more efficient strategy for not only gaining revenue, but maintaining it.

“In addition, we’re going to make additional efforts to do touchpoints with the community and with key stakeholders to make them aware of the current situation. And if there are any opportunities for additional donations then of course we would be extremely appreciative of any additional support the community would be able to provide to Affirmations,” Flores said. “Right now, this is what the next couple of months look like: basically, identifying what our existing revenue streams are, and are there additional revenue streams that we could tap into that we could work and align with.”

Flores said that he is reaching out to “subject matter experts” both from the Metro Detroit area and beyond to help the community center find ways to get back on its feet, along with stakeholders and former donors who have helped the center in the past. However, under tax law, Affirmations is classified as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. If Affirmations’ efforts should be unsuccessful, the organization will be required under law to give its assets to another 501(c)(3) if it should go out of business. When asked if either Flores or the board had given thought to any local organizations that they might consider to receive those assets, Flores was firm that they had not.

“The plan is for us not to go out of business. That is not the plan, so at this time we have not identified any of those actions because that is not our plan,” he said. “Our plan is to have Affirmations survive as an organization. That may look different than what it looked like earlier this week, but Affirmations is going to survive in some form and function.”

He said that the organization’s existing plans to restructure will reaffirm its unique mission to help community members “become the best version of themselves” and allow the center to become the “best version of itself.”

He added that as of now, merging with other existing organizations is not being considered either.

“With that being said it requires us to leverage the partnerships that we have so we are working synergistically with all of our partners across the region, so that way we are using our resources as effectively and efficiently as we can,” Flores said. “So, what comes to mind now is the Ruth Ellis Center. How do we continue to strengthen our relationship with the Ruth Ellis Center? … LGBT Detroit, how are we working synergistically with them? The Corktown Health Center, how are we working synergistically with them? Stand With Trans, just to name a few organizations. … These are organizations that are experts in their area and we want to make sure that we’re not overlapping with them.”
Flores said that the largest cost expenditure for Affirmations right now is its staff salaries.

“They support all the programming that goes on at the center, they support all of the management and logistical requirements to be able to support the community. That’s actually our largest cost on a monthly basis, hence why when we needed to tackle cost concerns when there was no other option available, we had to look at restructuring to be able to address the cost structures of the organizations and to prevent additional requests from the reserves,” Flores said, referencing its laid off employees and those whose positions have been removed.

However, Flores said that there are no current plans to lay off any more employees, adding that the responsibilities of those no longer with Affirmations will be distributed among existing staff and the board of directors. Flores left the country the morning after the announcement for a month-long work assignment overseas.

During a previous financial crisis in 2011, Affirmations was forced to take a mortgage out on the new building in Ferndale of $460,000, but they were able to eventually pay that off and rebuild a substantial cash reserve from better operating results and several large gifts and bequests. Flores told BTL that only $70,000 remains in the cash reserve account.

Community members can expect an update at the center’s next board meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m.
More information about the center can be found online here.

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Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center's Liz Bradbury on LV Arts Salon | WDIY

Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center's Liz Bradbury on LV Arts Salon | WDIY | LGBT Community Centers |

Liz Bradbury, Director of the Training Institute at the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown,  shares the latest arts and cultural offerings from the Center with hosts George Miller and Kate Scuffle.

Upcoming events include her current show, 'Channeling Rage: Recent Paintings' in the Center’s Fine Arts Gallery, and  the upcoming 'Art History from a Queer Perspective Classes - Series #3,' the latest in the Center's popular art history offerings. More information on the latest offerings are avaiable at the Center's website.

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At 25, LGBT Network supports, inspires next generation on Long Island

At 25, LGBT Network supports, inspires next generation on Long Island | LGBT Community Centers |

In June of this year, a rainbow flag raised at Hempstead Town Hall ushered in Pride on the Beach, a three-day festival that would bring thousands to Long Beach to celebrate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Such a gathering would have been unthinkable to most, if not all, members of the local LGBT community 27 years ago, when Long Island’s first gay pride parade stepped off in Huntington only after a hearing in federal court to obtain the permit.

Though this reality — one that includes federal marriage equality for same-sex couples — may be a given among millennials and Gen Z, its foundation has been painstakingly built by the previous generation. On Long Island, that generation has included David Kilmnick, 51, whose LGBT Network and its first major initiative, Long Island Gay and Lesbian Youth, in 2018 celebrated 25 years of service.

The network has been a lifeline for Zachary Reyes, 21, of Huntington Station, who spoke in November at the group’s Transgender Day of Remembrance in Bay Shore. TDOR events, which got their start in 1999 in San Francisco, memorialize those who have died because of anti-transgender violence.  

Zach Reyes, 21, who has found support and inspiration at the LGBT Network, speaks during the news conference with LGBT Network president David Kilmnick and the New York Islanders announcing an anti-bullying partnership in over 200 Long Island and New York schools at the Northwell Health Ice Center in East Meadow in October. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.
“LIGALY has been a place of welcome, a place of love, and a place of community for LGBT people,” Reyes said. “Without LIGALY I don’t know where I’d be.”

The network helped Reyes come out twice: first as a gay teen around age 13, then as a transgender person three years ago. Reyes, who's been accepted at Dutchess Community College in Poughkeepsie, works in retail stores at the Walt Whitman Shops.

“I don’t identify as any gender,” Reyes explained, asking to be referred to by the pronouns “they” and “them,” rather than “he/she” or “him/her.”

“My entire family, my Mom included, already knew that I was gay, but they did have a little bit of trouble with me coming out as transgender. LIGALY helped me to talk to my mom about what I was experiencing,” Reyes said, adding that their mom is “still grappling" with their gender identity.

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Reyes recalled being bullied and plagued by thoughts of suicide while in middle school. In 10th grade at Walt Whitman High School, however, Reyes met a LIGALY coordinator in a classroom presentation. LIGALY staff helped by drawing up a life plan, they said. Reyes visits the LGBT Network three times a week and volunteers as a trainer for programs that help other LGBT youths “come out” about their orientation. 

LIGALY invites kids 13 to 21 to hang out with other LGBT youths at Friday “OUTlet” social events. Same-sex dates can be taken each June to the annual LGBT Prom, which drew more than 300 teens this year.

“So many gay kids feel that they can’t do what they want because of who they love,” said Kilmnick, of Centereach.

At the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Bay Shore on Nov. 14, photos memorialize those who have died because of anti-transgender violence.  Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles
But at the centers, in Woodbury, Bay Shore, Sag Harbor and Long Island City, Queens, they soon learn that “there’s nothing more freeing than to be yourself,” Kilmnick said on a recent afternoon at the network’s Woodbury offices.

Kilmnick, a genial man with piercing blue eyes, took a visitor on a tour of office hallways decorated with “Coming Out Day” posters designed by Long Island youngsters and news clippings of major events in the organization’s history. The tour ended in a meeting room where photos of LIGALY alumni hang next to a full-size rainbow flag.

“These kids were all able to express themselves, to use their talents and be leaders, and they’ve gone on to pursue their dreams, comfortable in their own skin,” Kilmnick said. “They were allowed to be their authentic selves and enjoy life despite the challenges in society.”

In the past quarter-century much has changed for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on Long Island — and in the nation. Indeed, in 2017 the Pew Research Center reported, “Two years after the Supreme Court decision that required states to recognize same-sex marriages nationwide, support for allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally is at its highest point in over 20 years of Pew Research Center polling on the issue.” The research center found that by a margin of nearly 2 to 1, more Americans say they favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry.

Rona Sinz read her poem, "The Price Paid," at the Transgender Day of Remembrance hosted by the LGBT Network in Bay Shore on Nov. 14, 2018. Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles
Marriage equality has afforded dignity and legal rights to same-sex couples, who can now walk into any municipal office and obtain a marriage license. Kilmnick and the LGBT Network have often been on the front lines of such battles, promoting acceptance, anti-bullying programs in schools and HIV-prevention education.

Largest in the region
Kilmnick said that with its recent expansion into Queens, his organization is now “the largest regional network of regional LGBT services in New York State in terms of geography and population served.”

Local LGBT activists credit the centers with providing a safe space, especially for people without other healthy social outlets.

Joanne Borden, of South Valley Stream, gives the keynote speech at the Transgender Day of Remembrance in Bay Shore. "They trained me to be an advocate and that started me off lobbying the Nassau County Legislature for transgender human rights," she said of the LGBT Network's place in her journey. Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles
“I feel strongly that these community centers are really lifesaving,” said Nicole Grodner, 36, of Bethpage, a union representative, who has visited the Bay Shore center and attends the LGBT Network-sponsored Pride on the Beach with her partner of 13 years.

"For people who feel like they don’t belong anywhere, that open door gives them a place where they can feel comfortable and a part of something,” Grodner said.

“The work that he’s doing is really important,” agreed Maura Spery, 59, of Mastic Beach, who moved to Long Island in 2002 with her partner, Nancy Sorkow, 60, a social worker.

As a sign of progress, Spery said, her sexual orientation wasn’t an issue in 2014, when she won an election for Mastic Beach village trustee. She went on to be elected mayor in 2015, serving until the village was absorbed last year by Brookhaven township.

Edie, 63, of Massapequa, who did not give her name, said that the LGBT Network's counseling services helped her to come out. Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles
But LGBT Long Islanders also acknowledge the challenges likely ahead, especially for transgender people, many of whom worry their rights may be endangered by changing federal policies.

Gregory Noone, 56, of Ronkonkoma, a former Long Island ACT UP activist who has participated in network programs, said the community needs to be wary of complacency. “The biggest challenge is we should not take things for granted,” said Noone, program manager for Thursday’s Child, a Patchogue-based nonprofit serving people living with HIV and AIDS.

“We live in a little bubble here on Long Island," said Noone, who married James Gale, 55, a bank manager, in 2006 in Toronto. "Even though we have marriage equality, it can be changed. A good chunk of the country thinks it’s OK to allow people to be fired just because they’re gay. It’s [discrimination] still legal in more than half of the states.”  

Same-sex marriage was practically unimaginable, and LGBT life vastly different, when Kilmnick was growing up in Far Rockaway, Queens.  

Devyn Egan, 18, speaks about his journey and experience as a member of the LGBT community at the Transgender Day of Remembrance. "The progress we've made over time just brings hope to every generation of trans people and the LGBT community in general," he said. Photo Credit: Shelby Knowles
“I knew I was gay as far back as I can remember,” Kilmnick said. “When I was 5 or 6, when people were talking about being attracted to the opposite sex, I knew I was attracted to the same sex — but I knew enough not to talk about it.”

Kilmnick learned about community organizing from his grandmother Helen Leonescu, a Democratic leader in Far Rockaway with whom his family shared a two-family house.

Kilmnick graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1984 and earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from LIU Post in Brookville, where he was elected student body president.

How it started

David Kilmnick cuts the ribbon for LIGALY's new center in Bay Shore in 2002 with, from left, Jon Cooper, Bill Borman, the Rev. Canon Denis Brunelle, Tom Maligno, Melissa Medina and Steve Halsey. Photo Credit: Richard Slattery/Richard Slattery
The idea for LIGALY grew out of a project to complete a master’s degree in social work at Stony Brook University. “I decided to create a curriculum to talk about what it was like to grow up gay, particularly in the suburbs in an isolated area like Long Island,” Kilmnick said.

For his research, Kilmnick contacted area schools and asked to make a presentation. Some districts said they had no LGBT students. But a few accepted, leading Kilmnick to believe he was on the right track.

“No matter where I did this workshop, a couple of students would straggle behind, shuffle their papers and ask a question: Is there any place I can go to meet other people like myself?”

LIGALY started with a half-dozen school districts, including East Hampton and Uniondale. Nowadays, Kilmnick said, the LGBT Network provides workshops or speakers in 110 of Long Island’s 125 public school districts, reaching tens of thousands of students a year. About 4,000 youths currently attend LGBT Center programs.

Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen and LGBT Network president David Kilmnick, with Randy Jones of the Village People, and Long Beach Police Commissioner Michael Tangney, raise the pride flag outside Hempstead Town Hall on Thursday, June 7, 2018, to usher in Pride on the Beach. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp
In 2006, the organization expanded to include “life-span” services for the LGBT community, Kilmnick said. A newer program is SAGE-LI, a social group for older adults. The network also continues to expand its educational programs, which include transgender awareness among about two dozen workshops offered to youth student leaders, Nassau and Suffolk police academies and other audiences.

The network has also been credited with a number of firsts: the Gay Parent Teacher Student Association it launched in 2012, and a Major League team Pride Night with the New York Mets in 2015.  

With 50 staff members, the LGBT Network has a $5.6-million annual budget, about two thirds funded by state and local government grants. The balance comes from fundraisers.

Among LIGALY alumni, James Quinn credits the group with saving his life.

“If it wasn’t for LIGALY, I don’t think I’d be alive today,” said Quinn, a Northport High School graduate who was 14 when he showed up at a LIGALY meeting, feeling alone and isolated.

“It [LIGALY] showed me that I wasn’t alone and that there wasn’t anything wrong with me, that I was perfectly normal and there were other kids just like me,” said the East Northport native who is the owner of an event production company in Washington, D.C., and an associate producer of this year’s March for Our Lives, the student-led demonstrations in support of tightening gun control.

Quinn, 31, who moved off Long Island in 2005 to attend college, has kept in touch with Kilmnick and the LGBT Network. Six years ago, when he was working in the Obama administration’s Office of Scheduling and Advance, Quinn arranged for Vice President Joe Biden to send a copy of “The White House Cookbook,” with a handwritten note, as a wedding gift when Kilmnick married his life partner, Robert Vitelli, in 2012 at Land’s End catering hall in Sayville.  

“I wish you the very best and I am proud to stand with both of you,” says the note Kilmnick has kept as a memento.

Biden didn’t attend the wedding, which was held the same weekend as the Democratic National Convention where he was nominated for a second term. But the vice presidential acknowledgment attests to Kilmnick as a rising national LGBT figure. Kilmnick went on to serve on Hillary Clinton’s statewide leadership committee during her 2016 presidential campaign.

In addition to working to improve LGBT life in the “now,” Kilmnick lists priorities for the next several years: opening five new LGBT centers on Long Island by 2020; building affordable housing for LGBT seniors, people living with HIV and/or AIDS and homeless youth; and training LGBT youths to enter the workforce.

“Everyone should feel free to come out and be themselves,” Kilmnick adds. “When it comes down to social justice and civil rights, equality needs to be afforded to all.”

For Reyes, the network and LIGALY have been both a support and an inspiration. LIGALY helps trans people “to keep living as we are without anyone telling us what or who to be,” Reyes said, adding, “I’m happy to have a platform to speak on these issues and preach love to anyone who’s going to hear me.”

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Affirmations Interim Executive Director Resigns, Joins Ruth Ellis Center –

Affirmations Interim Executive Director Resigns, Joins Ruth Ellis Center – | LGBT Community Centers |
Affirmations Interim Executive Director Lilianna Angel Reyes has resigned from the organization, effective Thursday, Nov. 15. She made the announcement via social media Nov. 9.
Reyes will be joining the Ruth Ellis Center later this month as the new second stories director. According to Reyes, she was offered the permanent position of executive director at Affirmations
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LGBT Center of Greater Reading partners with Safe Berks for support group

The LBGT Center of Greater Reading has partnered with Safe Berks to offer a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning adult victims of domestic and/or sexual violence.

"We are proud to partner with Safe Berks in providing a support group for LGBTQ+ victims of domestic and/or sexual violence," Michelle Dech, executive director of the center, said in a news release.

The center provides advocacy and referral services for members of the LGBTQ community in Berks County.

Safe Berks provides shelter and other support to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The support group held its first meeting on Wednesday, and will meet every other Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the center, 1501 N. 13th St. For more information call 610-864-5800.
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New director of LGBTQ Student Center joins UM

For more than 25 years, Gisela Vega has been a leader and advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community. She now brings her extensive personal and professional experience, along with a continued pursuit of equality, to the University of Miami as the new director of the LGBTQ Student Center.

Vega, by way of Chicago, Illinois, received her start in housing and residential life as the resident director at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she encountered many different students from diverse backgrounds. As she gained professional experience and honed her skills and passion, Vega eventually joined Florida International University and in 2012 was named associate director of LGBTQA Student Initiatives within Multicultural Programs and Services and was on the faculty for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies. Vega was instrumental in developing educational and social programs at FIU, and after 22 years of service at the public institution, she is excited to bring her management approach to UM.

“This was a community that I had worked with for many years for both personal and professional reasons,” said Vega, who earned two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s in instructional leadership at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a doctorate in higher education from FIU. “When I was in college, we didn’t really have LGBT or gender and sexuality centers, which made it even more difficult. So, I can relate to the experience of a student who feels marginalized or alone on a college campus.”

Officially one week into her role at UM, Vega feels right at home in her new office, located on the second floor of the Whitten University Center of the Coral Gables campus. She has plans to continue to grow and enhance existing programs as well as implement year-round service components and student leadership development into the LGBTQ Student Center programming.

“I’d like to see us develop more LGBTQ leaders here at the University who can go into the community one day,” Vega said.

The LGBTQ Student Center currently offers a variety of programs and services to students, faculty, and staff that aim to build community and offer opportunities for empowerment, visibility, inclusion, intergroup engagement, and education. IBIS (I Believe In Solidarity) Ally Network’s training program is one of the many initiatives that attracted Vega to the UM LGBTQ community. She said there are people who want to help and want to be support systems for this community, but sometimes may not know how. So, she sees it as her responsibility to help those who want to learn.

In addition, Vega said she understands the importance of having a resource center on campus that provides a space where students can go for advice or simply to be heard.

“Part of the reason I do this work is because I’m passionate about our students in terms of them not feeling alone,” said Vega. “I think one of the things that’s unique about this population is that many of our students have many intersecting identities.  In my personal experience, I knew how important it was for me to find the right networks, the right organizations and groups and spaces and people to be involved with.”

Vega feels the UM community is extremely progressive and is working hard to ensure support for all marginalized groups across campus. She is proud to now work for a university that provides inclusive restrooms and that offers an option for students wishing to designate their preferred name or gender on their records.

Most of all, Vega looks forward to collaborating with students, faculty, staff, and the greater University community.

“My vision,” said Vega, “is to create one of the preeminent centers in the nation, one that is looked to for best practices where students, faculty, staff, and community feel that they are always welcomed. This office and these doors are open to anyone who is interested in learning about social justice issues and be educated around issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.”
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San Joaquin Pride Center honoring four at annual event

STOCKTON — Nicholas Hatten receives a great reminder every year that he stands “on the shoulders of giants.”

Hatten, San Joaquin Pride Center executive director, said the center is not the only group advocating or contributing to the LGBT+ community. There are people who have or are doing wonderful work and the annual Pride Honors event is an opportunity to recognize and elevate those individuals’ voices and efforts, he added.

Pride Honors, which started six years ago, is a positive and encouraging event, Hatten said. And in this political climate, when there’s so much division, it’s nice to have this celebration.

“It’s just an inspiring ceremony and a really beautiful way to say thanks to those people,” he said. “This is food for the soul.”

The Pride Honors Brunch is at 11 a.m. Jan. 6 at the San Joaquin Pride Center, 115 N. Sutter Street. The honorees are:

Legacy Award: Cathleen Galgiani

Education Champion Award: Lisa Cooper-Wilkins

Community Award: Dr. Elyas Parsa

Special Recognition Honoree: Dennis Merrill

Hatten is in awe of state Sen. Galgiani, D-Stockton, and her continued rise in politics after coming out as a lesbian, he said. She had a unique journey of coming out late in life and doing so in a very public way that is not often heard.

In 2011, Galgiani told The Record that it was not until adulthood that she knew she was gay and that by her coming out she hoped to send a positive message to young people.

“Cathleen helped create the very first LGBT+ political club,” according to the Pride Center. “As a legislative aide, Galgiani advocated for LGBT+ issues that often resulted in political blowback from the public during a time when San Joaquin County was still divided over gay rights.

“Cathleen’s personal story is a wonderful reminder that each of our coming out stories is unique and that her later-in-life discovery and coming out experience in the public eye can be a loving and welcoming experience.”

Cooper-Wilkins, assistant superintendent and vice president for student services at San Joaquin Delta College, is being recognized for her willingness to partner and work with the Pride Center and LGBT+ students to improve the school’s environment.

Several years ago Hatten began hearing about issues at the campus, he said. When the Pride Center approached Cooper-Wilkins, she immediately agreed to meet and was open to working with the center and LGBT+ students to improve Delta College.

“She took our recommendations and ran with them,” Hatten said. “There are still agencies that don’t even respond when we reach out, let alone ask us to partner.”

Cooper-Wilkins said she is overwhelmed and humbled by the recognition, and added that she works with many people at Delta College who are making the campus welcoming and inclusive to all students.

The honor is a testament to all the efforts the college has made, she said.

There were learning experience during the partnership between Delta College and the Pride Center that highlighted how important collaboration is and Cooper-Wilkins said Hatten and the center were instrumental in showing those on campus how they’re doing and how they can improve.

She said she hopes Delta College can continue to cultivate that partnership and support LGBT+ students.

Also being honored is Dr. Elyas Parsa of San Joaquin General Hospital’s Gender Health Clinic, which opened in 2016, for advocating for local transgender services and the creation of the clinic, according to the Pride Center.

Parsa is an ally who saw the importance of serving transgender individuals, Hatten said. The Pride Center was asking for the county to add more resources for the transgender community when they learned the Gender Health Clinic was opening.

“This clinic fills the gap of services that our community needs,” he said. “The clinic is learning and improving day-to-day and that’s a testament to Dr. Parsa and we’re honoring the whole clinic, too.”

The Pride Center also is honoring Dennis Merrill, who Hatten called one of the center’s strongest supporters.

“He’s one of those quiet giants that does a lot without saying a lot and doesn’t get the recognition they deserve because they’re not seeking the limelight,” Hatten said. “Those individuals are the backbone (of the center) and finally we convinced him that it was time to honor him.”
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New executive director 'inspired' to lead Gay and Lesbian Community Center - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper

New executive director 'inspired' to lead Gay and Lesbian Community Center - Las Vegas Sun Newspaper | LGBT Community Centers |

The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada this week announced the appointment of John Waldron as its new executive director.

Waldron, the former manager of learning and development at Boyd Gaming, will enter his new role Jan. 22. The appointment comes as part of an “extensive search,” said Joe Oddo Jr., who assumed his role as the president of the center’s board of directors in December.

“It’s more important than ever that we’re actively involved in the community and building strong relationships,” Waldron said. “Even though we’ve made remarkable strides over the years, the current administration is weighing down on us and trying to reverse much of the progress that we’ve made. That’s the role [of the executive director] — to build strong relationships within the community and to really be an advocate for all of the programs that we have going on.”

In the six years that the center has operated out of the Robert L. Forbuss building on Maryland Parkway, it has had five executive directors. Waldron says one of the most frequent questions he received during the hiring process was, “Are you committed?”

“I made the commitment to them that I wasn’t going to be just the next person in the round of revolving executive directors,” Waldron, 54, said. “That I was inspired by what they do.”

“I’ve been out for 30 years now and very comfortable with who I was, but I was never out front in the community,” he continued. “To have this opportunity now at this stage in my life and in my career — to dive into a mission that is so personal to me — means everything to me.”

Waldron is an adjunct professor at the College of Southern Nevada and runs his own leadership development and consulting business. Prior to his role at Boyd Gaming, he was the director of organizational development at Opportunity Village. “I’m very excited to be part of the organization,” he said of the center.

Waldron said the center is “building momentum and reaching out to our corporate partners,” to build relationships and solidify funds for the year. He also plans to use his background in leadership to help develop emerging LGBTQ leaders in Las Vegas.

Oddo said that volunteer hours “skyrocketed” last year. The center also launched a bi-monthly free trans name-change workshop and introduced the Center Advocacy Network, a program that provides people with victim advocacy training so they can help survivors of domestic violence move through crises.

But the nonprofit has also faced a handful of challenges in recent years. In June 2017, it cut operating hours and staff salaries to offset funding issues. Four months later, Bronze Cafe vacated the restaurant space located in the front of the building. Last July, the Little Rainbow Cafe opened and then quietly shuttered.

Former executive director André Wade, who took over in March 2017, resigned last August, and in September, the organization terminated its employment with Blue Montana, the center’s former transgender program manager.

Oddo said that the center was in the “final stages” of filling the transgender program director position. He also emphasized the need for community support and recurring monthly donors.

“The amount we’re asking people to donate is not an exorbitant amount of money,” he said, requesting that supporters of the center make a monthly contribution of $5 to $20, or the equivalent of a Netflix subscription. “If you all signed up for $10 a month, that funds two months of our youth program,” Oddo said.

The executive director announcement is the most significant in a number of new leadership appointments, which were also announced last week.

Brian Hosier, project manager of Penn National, will serve as the board’s vice president; Scott Ramer, general manager of Findlay Honda Henderson, is the board’s new treasurer; and Garrett Pattiani, co-founder and publisher of QLife Media, is the board’s new secretary. Donya Monroe, who served as the interim executive director and was previously treasurer, will return to the board as a member.

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A SAFE HARBOR: ECU opens largest LGBTQ center - Daily Reflector

A SAFE HARBOR: ECU opens largest LGBTQ center - Daily Reflector | LGBT Community Centers |

East Carolina University’s new center for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender  and queer students is designed to be a safe space and home base for the population it serves.

That is a concept its namesake understands.

Dr. Jesse R. Peel may be a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, but his roots trace back to eastern North Carolina — and East Carolina University.

“This is my backyard. This is home,” he said.

But Peel, originally from Everetts, knows that eastern North Carolina has not always been the most welcoming place for the LGBTQ community. 

That’s part of the reason why he was on hand Saturday to help open the Dr. Jesse R. Peel Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer (LGBTQ) Center in the university’s brand- new student center.

Peel, who came out as gay in his thirties — he called himself a “late bloomer” — said he hopes this new center will be a safe, open and welcoming space for young students struggling in their own journeys.

“For a young, gay kid in rural North Carolina, having a place like this where you’re able to be who you are and not have to apologize for it, that’s an incredible asset,” he said.

Peel has a longstanding history with the university that dates back to 1986, when he and his mother Helen established the J. Woolard Peel University Scholars Award in order to memorialize his father.

The Peels were one of the first 10 families to help establish what is now known as the EC Scholars program.

“I had heard at ECU the scholars had a relationship with the donors, and that really appealed to me,” he said.

Peel’s interest, love and involvement with ECU only continued to grow. After his mother passed, he used the funds from selling her three farms to create the J. Woolard and Helen Peele Distinguished Professorship in Religious Studies. He has created various professorships over the years and was invited to be a part of Chancellor Steve Ballard’s diversity initiative.

And with the opening of the center, his impact at the university grew even bigger. Even as a resident of Atlanta and a Tar Heel graduate, his love for ECU and his hometown region held strong.

“After they made me an honorary Pirate in 2009, I couldn’t resist,” Peel said.

The center is the largest LGBTQ center out of any UNC system school. It’s an upgrade from their office in Brewster that Mark Rasdorf, associate director of the center, said was seemingly bursting at the seams.

The space will hold annual events, including National Coming Out Day, Transgender Day of Remembrance, Bisexual Awareness Week, Asexual Awareness Week and Transgender Day of Visibility and more. The space will also serve as a place for advice, resources and comfort for anyone that needs it, no matter where they are in their journey. 

Rasdorf said Saturday marked an important and historic day in ECU’s history. 

“Today is a celebration of pride and our place on campus and the support we’ve received,” Rasdorf said. “Jesse’s love infuses this center.” 

Senior Hannah Myers thanked Peel for his ongoing love and support. 

“Jesse has been here and for all of us this entire time,” she said. “I’m just so grateful for Jesse and this gift and for helping us make this happen the way it deserves to be. We’ve finally done it.”

Peel said he hopes that the center not only will make the LGBTQ community feel welcome, but be a catalyst in the community and beyond. 

“I wonder if it would be different if there was a place like this at Chapel Hill,” he said. “I’ll never know. The world is different now. We’re opening this in a conservative part of the state, and I am hoping it will impact not only the university, but the community, the region.”

To Peel, the center is much more than just a resource center or event venue.  

“This is home base,” Peel said. 

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Gay City has expanded E Pike library and resource center — and Three Dollar Bill Cinema as a new roommate

Gay City has expanded E Pike library and resource center — and Three Dollar Bill Cinema as a new roommate | LGBT Community Centers |

Capitol Hill’s Gay City has opened its new library and resource center on E Pike. It also has a new partner in the expanded space.

Gay City, which promotes wellness in Seattle’s LGBTQ community by providing health services, connecting people to needed resources, allowing for artistic expression, and building community, has maintained a growing library for years. The Michael C. Weidemann LGBT Library, at Gay City first opened in 2009, when the nonprofit inherited the LGBT Lending Library from the closing Seattle LGBT Community Center, and now houses more than 8,000 books..

“It’s really about making our existing resources more accessible,” Gay City executive director Fred Swanson said of the opening of the new, larger facility. “More space means more room for people to access services, and more opportunity for programing through the library.”

The resource center features plenty of seating — they’re still looking for a new food and drink partner (Image: Gay City)
The library might want to make room for a few DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Longtime Capitol Hill film nonprofit Three Dollar Bill Cinema announced this week it is joining the Gay City complex.

“We are excited to announce that we will be moving in with our long-time partner Gay City, Seattle’s LGBTQ Center. We will start our move over on December 14th and will be full-time at Gay City by late December,” Three Dollar Bill Cinema executive director Ben McCarthy said in a statement on the move. “This move will not only allow us the opportunity to work more closely with Gay City, it will provide Three Dollar Bill Cinema with an opportunity to continue to regain financial stability as we navigate through some rough organizational waters.”

In 2014, the organization behind Seattle’s annual gay film festival and summer cinema in Cal Anderson Park, joined a handful of nonprofits in office space in new 12th Ave Arts building developed with housing and theater space by Capitol Hill Housing. Earlier this year, Three Dollar Bill Cinema executive director Jason Plourde departed the nonprofit. The organization is hoping that savings from the move will put it on more solid financial ground.

The opportunity for the Gay City expansion came as neighbor Kaladi Brothers Coffee moved back to its old, overhauled space a few doors down at 511 E Pike. That space opened up when Sun Liquor Distillery moved off the Hill last year. Sun had been using the space as a bottling facility for its contract to supply “minis” to Alaska Airlines.

In 2012, building owner Chip Ragen overhauled his property — the old building was part of what was once intended to be The Michigan, a project that would have been the tallest building in Pike/Pine — to provide a new expanded home for both Kaladi and the growing Gay City complex.

Gay City’s “storefront” library and resource center, while open, is not yet operating at full strength. The organization, located at 517 E Pike, is still trying to build up staffing capacity to ensure that all of the facility’s resources are fully available during operating hours, according to Swanson.

The official opening will be in January 2019. It is currently open 11 AM to 8 PM Monday through Friday and 12:30 PM to 5 PM on Saturday.

The new space, which is approximately 1,125 square feet, will host literary arts and community events once fully functioning in the coming months.

“It’s exciting to be able to expand, and to create more opportunities for LGBTQ folks to connect,” Swanson said.  “We’re excited about all of the things that bring community into Gay City– testing services, community meetings, arts programing– and are eager to fill out the library calendar in the new year.”

Gay City has yet to choose a food and drink vendor to partner with in the space. Interested parties are still welcome to email the executive director at

Gay City is located at 517 E Pike. You can learn more at

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LGBT+ Youth Group helps young teens have a safe place to open up weekly

LGBT+ Youth Group helps young teens have a safe place to open up weekly | LGBT Community Centers |
SAN ANGELO, TX - Since the Open Arms Rape Crisis Center received a grant for their new building, they moved the LGBT+ Youth Group from monthly to weekly.

A member of the Youth Group, Vance Rogers, says, "I found out I was transgender about in fifth grade, and I'm in 8th grade now."

At just 13 years old, Vance felt as though he didn't have a place to be himself. 

"Though my family accepts me, they don't call me by the pronouns I go by and the name I go by because it's hard for them to face that I'm not who I thought I was. I don't blame them for that, but it still hurts," says Rogers.

That is, until Vance met Lanie...

The LGBT+ Advocate for Open Arms, Lanie Rogers, says, "we wanted to have a space where they could just be."

He became a part of the Open Arms LGBT+ Youth Group.

"A lot of these youth that come in for the first time, they are really shy," says Lanie Rogers.
One of the ways Lanie gets the youth to open up is to always start the meetings with the highs...

"It always seems to be the high of my week and what makes me smile," says Vance Rogers.

...And lows of the week.

"Junior high is really tough. And we have a few that at 11 or when they hit puberty things were happening that is too much for them and we have a few that considered suicide," says Lanie Rogers.

The youth group has facilitators, who are a part of the l-g-b-t plus community to help show these kids that you can be successful in the community and you don't have to be LGBT+ to attend the group.

"We also have their allies, some just here because they are here to support them and stand up for them," says Lanie Rogers.

A concept that might seem trivial to us, is a group that helps these you feel accepted and educated on who they are.

"Everybody seems to hear this, but it definitely gets better," says Vance Rogers.

To become a part of the youth group is free of charge, you just need to get in contact with the Open Arms office, through social media or even by phone number.
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New group aims to give LGBTQ needed support in Fall River

New group aims to give LGBTQ needed support in Fall River | LGBT Community Centers |
A local attorney and social services coordinator have joined forces to launch a non-profit resource center devoted to serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender residents.

“There’s a lot of great nonprofit work in Fall River, but the fact that there’s no LGBTQ-specific programs and services is what really stood out for us,” said Karina Valencia, co-founder of the new organization, F.R. Pride.

Valencia is public defender with the Committee for Public Counsel Services Public Defender Division in Fall River, and F.R. Pride founder Nikita Santiago works as a care coordinator at SSTAR — though the women launched F.R. Pride independently.

They were spurred to action in May, when they traveled to Boston to view a presentation on a report that found members of the state’s LGBT population still face discrimination, placing them at increased risk of depression and illness.

They learned of several organizations that exist to support LGBT people in Greater Boston and around Worcester. But when it came to Fall River, there was a need for a resource center attuned to the community’s needs.

Santiago said the nearest LGBT services center is SouthCoast LGBT Network, in New Bedford. Though Fall River is home to a sizeable population of gay and transgender people, visibility here is low.

Part of F.R. Pride’s mission is to connect gay, bisexual and transgender people with “culturally sensitive” medical and mental health care providers who are familiar with issues that disproportionately affect the community, said Valencia.

When care providers do not understand those issues, patients can isolate themselves, and can sometimes avoid the doctor, said Santiago. Some, particularly youth, may hold back from disclosing their sexual orientation to a doctor for fear they will be outed to their parents.

“Dealing with someone who is questioning their identity or maybe is still transitioning and their providers aren’t culturally sensitive, it can cause people to withdraw, it can make them feel like they don’t have support,” she said.

F.R. Pride will also offer support to parents of LGBT youth, who may be struggling to figure out how to support their children, Valencia said.

“There’s also a population of heterosexual parents with LGBT kids who are aware, educated, and who want to be more supportive and accepting of their kids, but maybe don’t have a network, or don’t know where to get services, or maybe just to have play dates with other kids,” she said.

The organization will formally launch in June, a date planned to coincide with LGBT Pride month. June is the month when, nearly five decades ago, when New York City police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar, catalyzing riots that marked the start of the fight for gay rights in the nation.

One early initiative they’ve taken on was to arrange to screen showings a new film they say wouldn’t normally be shown in Fall River, Boy Erased, about a gay man subjected to conversion therapy, at the Picture Show from Dec. 7 to 14.

“It was important to get access for folks to watch it in our community and not have to drive to Cambridge or Boston,” said Valencia.

They’ve also built an online directory of LGBT-friendly businesses in the region, which is free for businesses and accessible on the organization’s website,

In the months leading up to F.R. Pride’s formal launch, Santiago and Valencia are fundraising, seeking grants and accepting donations by check sent to their 161 S. Main St., Suite 302 administrative offices with the hope of opening a separate drop-in center to serve clients in Greater Fall River.

More broadly, F.R. Pride’s overarching mission is to increase visibility of a historically marginalized population.

“Increasing visibility is not about making us stand out, it’s about helping folks feel more comfortable with the fact that in the end, we’re essentially all the same,” said Valencia.
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Future of STD testing and treatment by the Los Angeles LGBT Center uncertain

Future of STD testing and treatment by the Los Angeles LGBT Center uncertain | LGBT Community Centers |
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion on Nov. 20 to approve the allocation of emergency reserve funds for organizations, including the Los Angeles LGBT Center, for public health initiatives like STD testing and treatment.

The motion, introduced by Supervisors Sheila Kuehl and Mark Ridley-Thomas, will add $5 million for public health programs, along with $1 million in grant funding for clients with substance abuse disorders, over a period of two years. Pending the Health Department’s decisions concerning the allocation of those funds, the Center might be able to maintain levels of service for programs that were threatened, according to reports, by the organization’s dispute with Los Angeles County over funding for existing contracts.

In the last fiscal year, STD programming cost the Center $1.5 million, which was covered by reserve funds and other sources including contracts with LA County—which has supplied a consistent, flat level of funding to the organization, including in this case. High demand for testing and treatment, however, has depleted available money from contracts with the County.

Requests for funding increases from the County were turned down, to the surprise of the Center’s Chief of Staff, Darrel Cummings. He told the Los Angeles Bladethe organization was forced to draw funds from other programs—like meal services for seniors and housing services for youth experiencing homelessness—to cover the costs: “Every service we provide is impacted by our having to redirect funds from one place to another.” 

The Board’s motion for emergency funding was introduced just as the Center was prepared to announce cuts in free STD testing and treatment, following the discovery of an internal email from the Center’s Chief of Staff, Darrel Cummings, which was printed in WEHOville.

LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the Board motion, told the Los Angeles Blade: “Local, state and federal governments have not been adequately investing in STD prevention. Funding has not kept up with the need and rising costs. Today the County voted to utilize our reserves to help The LGBT Center and other important community providers prevent STD infection, and we will do everything we can to find ways to invest even more money in preventing STD infection. We will continue to work with our local providers to advocate ever more effectively.”

Budgetary constraints have tightened amid a spike in STD rates nationwide, which has hit LA County especially hard. New gonorrhea cases nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017 among men who have sex with men (MSM), according to nationwide statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Officials shared the latest data documenting the number of diagnoses in the County between Jan. and August 2018. They found 5,337 cases of syphilis, 30 cases of congenital syphilis, and 16,654 cases of gonorrhea.

If the emergency motion was not introduced by the LA County Board of Supervisors and the Center was forced to comply with funding limits set by existing contracts, Cummings explained that the organization would have to cut STD testing/treatment services by 50 percent.

“Epidemiologists here calculate, in a very conservative fashion, what that would look like in one year,” Cummings said. “It would mean 8,000 people with undiagnosed gonorrhea. That would obviously be contributing to what is already a crisis.”

Cummings said public health officials must redouble efforts to fund testing and treatment programs—including those performed by the Center—but instead feels the County voiced appreciation for the organization’s programs while ignoring their efficacy.

“We’re diagnosing 22 percent of all syphilis cases in Los Angeles County,” Cummings said. “And the County has 14 of their own facilities—none of which are targeting the LGBT community. And [the County] doesn’t have to hold bake sales to keep their operations open. They’re fully funded no matter how effective or not they are.”

The Center’s cultural competency respective to the LGBT community is in large part responsible for the rise in the number of patients whom the organization is testing and treating for STDs. LGBT Californians are disproportionately affected by the STD crisis while the number of diagnosed cases in the state has reached record highs for the third consecutive year. Michael Fraser, Ph.D., executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), explained that local and community-based providers are often better trained to meet the needs of at-risk populations. For example, “The techniques you might use in the MSM community are really different from what you might use with pregnant women,” he explained.

The need to address public health challenges among underserved communities was addressed in the Board of Supervisors’ vote—which moved to, among other tasks, “Instruct the Director of the Department of Public Health to develop and release a solicitation within 45 days to support the delivery of STD screening and treatment services specifically targeting underserved geographic areas and sub-populations of the County.”

Cummings emphasized that the Center has historically worked well with the County on public health issues. “Even though I’ve been pretty angry with the County because of their lethargic response to this issue,” Cummings told the LA Blade, “that exists in the context of—generally speaking, over decades—having very good relationships with public health officials in Los Angeles and elected officials who care a great deal about these matters.”
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Ogden Pride begins campaign to raise $500,000 for a new LGBTQ+ center | Local News |

Ogden Pride begins campaign to raise $500,000 for a new LGBTQ+ center | Local News | | LGBT Community Centers |
Ogden Pride is looking for a home. Literally.

The organization, which focuses on celebrating and supporting the LGBTQ+ community, is seeking a physical presence in Ogden, according to Harrison Spendlove, board president of Ogden Pride. The group just launched a two-year campaign to raise $500,000 to purchase and renovate a home or office to create the Ogden Pride Center.

“We sat down and analyzed the needs of the community,” Spendlove said. “We have Utah Pride, but honestly, they’re based in Salt Lake. We just don’t have the resources the community needs up north.”

And among those resources is a physical space that would allow Ogden pride, and groups that align with its mission, to have a permanent space to offer services to the local community.

“It’ll be a safe space, a community gathering space, and a space for our youth program,” Spendlove said. “We want to create a sense of belonging, and a type of home.”

Indeed, Spendlove said high on the group’s wish list is finding an actual house to renovate — that way, it has more of a “home feel.” He said they’re also looking for something in central Ogden, in a safe cultural area, preferably downtown, that will be “visible to the community as a whole.” It also needs to be near public transportation so it is easily accessible to youth.

Spendlove admits it’s a tall order.

“Our initial vision is a home or house, possibly a storefront, in central Ogden, he said. “That’s a lot, but we feel like we’re going to need to be visible.”

And with a $500,000 price tag for purchase, renovation and initial operating costs, Spendlove knows the fundraiser will have to be a total community effort.

“I know it’s a tall order, but Ogden has achieved great things in the past,” he said.

Spendlove said the four goals of the new pride center for the LGBTQ+ community will be:

• Provide a safe space for LGBTQ+ people in Ogden and the surrounding areas.

• Foster an environment for gathering in celebration and unity.

• Educate the greater community on the issues and needs facing LGBTQ+ people.

• Support programs and resources that benefit the LGBTQ+ community.

Spendlove said suicide is one of the biggest problems in the state, and the LGBTQ+ community is one of the highest at-risk.

“We want to create a sense of belonging, and a type of home, to combat issues like this,” he said.

According to Spendlove, the new Ogden Pride Center will include a “youth zone,” a resource library, a kitchenette and conference space. He said he envisions the spaces will be interchangeable, and the new center can act as a community gathering place.

Ogden Pride would love to attract an “angel donor” to fund the new center, but Spendlove said any donation is appreciated. Donations can be made online at the website. Click on the “Ogden Pride Center” tab, then “Click Here to Donate.”

“All of those funds will be directed into an account, separate from our general account, that is earmarked for building the center,” Spendlove said.

Donors can also call 801-917-4588, or mail a check to Ogden Pride, Inc., P.O. Box 13353, Ogden, UT 84412.

The bottom line, according to Spendlove, is that Ogden Pride needs a greater physical presence in Ogden.

“We need a tangible space to offer the community,” he said. “We want something that people can say, ‘That’s Ogden Pride.’”
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Keith Haring Art and Activism Will Soon Be Featured at the SF LGBT Center

Keith Haring Art and Activism Will Soon Be Featured at the SF LGBT Center | LGBT Community Centers |
Although Keith Haring was just 31 when he died of AIDS-related complications in 1990, his iconic graffiti-inspired pop art and LGBTQ activism remain vibrant in everything from clothing lines to international exhibitions. On Saturday, December 8, his work will be celebrated in the Rainbow Room at the SF LGBT Center, with his sister Kay signing her best-selling book Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing (Dial Books, 2017).

Kay explains that she wrote the book to answer a question that she is frequently asked: “What was Keith like as a kid?” She answers, “He was always drawing.”

“What I most want people to remember about Keith is his deep commitment to community and his unending generosity,” she adds. “He also worked hard. He had a vision that everyone could be connected through art. He believed in what he was doing and just kept drawing!”

In addition to the book signing, Kay will do a Q&A. A portion of the book sale proceeds will be donated to the SF LGBT Center at 1800 Market Street. The book will be read by renowned drag queen and storyteller Honey Mahogany of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame.

The event will also feature a kid’s fashion show by Emily Payne from Project Runway. She is the designer of acclaimed kid’s clothing line Devon Rose. Legendary local DJs Boomzilla and Pete Avila will be DJing throughout the day.

An art sale of donated works inspired by Keith Haring will benefit the Center. Participating artists will include Angelina and Izabella Anguino-Jacobs, Rene Capone, Cody Furguson, Elaine Leon, Blue Logan, Jason Mecier, Karl Marks, Wayne Moraghan, Paix Robinson, Stephen Strange, Evan Venegas, Tyler Wallach and Jim Williams.

There will be Keith Haring-inspired art activities, with the opportunity to make arty buttons. Dog Eared Books in the Castro will be in attendance as well, selling art books and licensed items from the Pop Shop.

The organizers extend special thanks to Kay, the SF LGBT Center Community Programs team, Micha Oliver, Jim Williams, Honey Mahogany, Emily Payne, Pete Avila, Boomzilla, Clubcard Printing, Blick Art Materials, Dog Eared Books and JW Marriott.

Although the Noon–4 pm event will be free, advance registration is strongly encouraged. To do so, please visit:
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The LGBTQ Center Stage Sets a New Level of Excellence

The LGBTQ Center Stage Sets a New Level of Excellence | LGBT Community Centers |
Marking its 9th Annual Center Stage Gala, a new bar of excellence was set that makes this event one of the Coachella Valley’s premier must-attend events of the year.  The Center’s programs are designed to end isolation and loneliness and to connect people to resources and community.  Center Stage 2018 documented how effectively The Center is achieving these goals by reaching over 68,000 valley residents.

Center CEO Mike Thompson welcomed over 700 attendees.  He noted the unique quality of the evening’s program noting that “to be able to, in one night, pay posthumous tribute Dick Haskamp, a pioneer of the gay community in Palm Springs, while celebrating and uplifting the work of the new generation of LGBTQ young pioneers from the East Valley represents a perfect embodiment of the LGBTQ Center’s mission to help LGBTQ people along their way?”

The hilarious and witty Kate Clinton returned for the 5th year as Emcee for the evening with her gay and lesbian political perspective.  She demonstrated how humor gets us through “peacetime, wartime, and scoundrel time.”  She introduced brothers Will and Anthony Nunziata, singers and songwriters, hailed by the Huffington Posts as “a nearly impossible paring of talent, stage presence, and charisma.”  

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Longtime supporter and sponsor Harold Matzner and guest Delfina Zarate. (Photo: David A. Lee\Special to The Desert Sun)


The Center's Legacy Award recognizes the lasting impact made on behalf of LGBTQ people living in the Coachella Valley. Board Chair Brian Rix noted that “ It is without question that Dick Haskamp’s life demonstrated such a commitment. We thank Dick posthumously for honoring The Center with a gift from his estate, ensuring that even after passing he is still making a difference.”  Haskamp opened Street Bar on Arenas Road in Palm Springs in 1990, the longest-running bar serving the LGBTQ community.  He dedicated his life, time, and resources to the LGBTQ community.  His laughter was contagious, and he raised the spirits of all those around him.  Rix noted that “Dick’s vision, enthusiasm, and generosity was instrumental in helping make The Center what it is today.”

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Representing the Presenting Sponsor Eisenhower Health, Wendy Beerbower and her wife Robin Behm, Marty Massiello and husband Jeff Weyant. (Photo: David A. Lee\Special to The Desert Sun)


The Center highlighted its expansion into the Eastern Coachella Valley with a moving presentation by Center staff members Alexis Ortega and Miguel Navarro. The audience was brought to tears by several young Latino students who shared their stories of coming to terms with their true selves and how The Center had helped them in that transition. CEO Mike Thompson said “We are striving to be a Center and a resource for the entire Coachella Valley. We have been so pleased with our relationship with Eastern Coachella Groups like Alianza, formerly known as Building Healthy Communities, and our ability to outreach into those communities with our incredible staff”.
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