By Gay Central Valley
Editor’s note: This article was published originally at Gay Central Valley at www.gaycentralvalley.org.
Gay Central Valley officially formed as a nonprofit in January 2009. Before that, it was a group of Central Valley Web sites run by volunteers from their homes. Once it was granted official 501(c) (3) status by the IRS, Gay Central Valley forged ahead with a force, opening the first LGBT community center in Fresno in 20 years as one of its first projects. The Community Center opened officially in January 2010 and has been going strong ever since.
Led by Chris Jarvis, a veteran LGBT rights activist, Gay Central Valley has faced an uphill battle from the start. Issues such as funding, staffing, volunteer/leadership changes and an ongoing philosophy of an all-volunteer organization (where no one receives compensation and all money raised is funneled back into the community) presented ongoing challenges.
Keeping a community center open to the public 5–6 days a week for seven years is a massive accomplishment. But Gay Central Valley didn’t stop there; it has done so much more. Those efforts included countless outreach events, more than a hundred support group meetings and innovative projects such as the first ever Central Valley Transgender Clothing Closet and the international awareness program. The Rainbow Delegation of Gay Central Valley continued to expand to match the ever-changing needs of the Fresno LGBT community.
Running a community center with a 24-hour phone line, supporting and mentoring another center in a city an hour away, creating and providing social and political events and actions, participating and partnering with other organizations, publishing and updating Web sites and blogs, training others in cultural competency and hosting the most successful one-day LGBT fund-raiser in Fresno history (No H8 2012) have been an honor and a privilege.
Gay Central Valley has been successful year after year. Board members and volunteer staff have come and gone, but through all the changes and the challenges, the organization persevered. The primary foundation has been to serve the LGBT community.
Now, Gay Central Valley is announcing a change.
Gay Central Valley closed the Fresno LGBT Community Center as of Aug. 1. The organization itself will cease operations by the end of the year.
This decision did not come easily. Longtime Board members have regularly discussed how best to use resources and support the community at large, how to move forward and what the scope is for coming years. Volunteers have come and gone, and the Board has been rebuilt many times with different goals and focuses.
This trailblazing organization and its Board of Directors are proud of the hurdles it has jumped and the lives that have been saved. After a long and difficult thought process, it is now the right time for this change. This is the time to pass the baton to the next group or organization that is willing to take up the challenge. It is hoped that vital works such as a community center, the Rainbow Delegation and the Cultural Competency Training Outreach will be taken on by other local organizations.
Although the organization itself is shutting down, those who have worked for Gay Central Valley over the years remain available to provide assistance and support where it is needed, although in a different fashion. The phone number and Web sites will remain available for a period. While the participants are stepping away from the organization, they are not stepping away from the community.
Chris Jarvis and Kaylia Metcalfe-Armstrong, the longest running leaders of the organization, want to thank all those who have given their time, energy, passion and dedication to the organization over its run. Those volunteers served the community and provided access to resources that literally saved lives. The organization could never have had the kind of success it’s had without these voices.
To the volunteers who have staffed the LGBT Community Center for almost eight years, you have been the front lines of this LGBT effort in Fresno and have made a safe place for all those reaching out for help. You have made an incredible difference in people’s lives. It is hoped that the volunteer opportunities provided you have started you on a lifelong path of service to others.
And to the local community, which has embraced and supported Gay Central Valley for so long, what can be said? Your financial contributions, emotional and social support and your very presence have allowed the organization the freedom to do the difficult and time-consuming day-to-day work to provide access and support for others, to give them a voice and to raise them up to the equality and recognition that they deserve.
Gay Central Valley can’t thank you enough.
Gay Central Valley’s final contribution to the LGBT community will be as follows:
Groups. Facilitated groups will continue to have access to the Center through Sept. 1.
Inventory. The inventory of the Fresno LGBT Community Center will be donated to those people and organizations working to help the community in Fresno and the Central Valley. The inventory includes hardware, appliances, furniture, office supplies, books, media, clothing, event supplies, pride supplies, artwork and holiday supplies.
Financial. Gay Central Valley will donate financially to other nonprofits (501(c)(3) designation) in Fresno that support the LGBT community. All those who apply will be considered.
LGBT Fresno is stepping up to begin a referral/resource line but needs to raise $2,500 to get it going. This will be an important resource in an area that (while it’s come far) is lacking in LGBT resources. Donations will provide the needed funds to open and maintain the line for one year. The IT provider fees will allow multiple volunteers to connect to those who need help and resources. Imagine a teen will be able to call, text, Facebook message and get a friendly and helpful reply to connect to the resources they so desperately need.
Please chip in $5, $10 or $50, anything you can, to help make this new resource a reality. Stand strong. Lean on each other. And keep going forward.