The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Charlotte, North Carolina (www.gaycharlotte.com), according to an article published in the January 13, 2007, issue of Q-Notes, is facing financial woes after only five years of operation.
The Center, which opened its doors to great fanfare among the LGBT community across the state in 2002, is in so tight of a spot financially, it may be forced to close shop:
With a small amount of funding currently coming from only a handful of private donors the very future of the Center is at stake.
“There is a possibility the Center will close if it doesn’t increase finance and community support,” says Board President Joseph Campos.
According to Campos, the Center is in its dire state for a variety of reasons.
“I would say a lack of administrative strength and daily operations and the lack of resources for the Center has lent itself to that. Limited staff, limited financial support, limited strategic planning and development fundraising have all contributed to the state we’re in.”
But Campos goes even further — pointing a finger at Charlotte’s LGBT community. “I sometimes get the impression the Charlotte LGBT community doesn’t want it; they don’t find a need for the center. There are individuals who support it, but collectively, I’m just not sure.”
Laura Witkowsi, the current executive director of the Center, echoes some of Campos’ sentiments, but also looks at the Center itself for not making the community aware of specific needs.
“I don’t think the community supports the Center as much as they could. I think a lot of people in Charlotte have taken the Center for granted, they think, ‘oh they’re doing just fine.’ But I don’t believe this community wants to see the Center fail. The Center has done so well with the resources it has we have given off the impression we are rolling in dough, which is not the case.”
According to the article, the Center has cut backs its operations to only three nights per week (Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, from 5pm-8pm) and Saturdays (10am-1pm).
Witkowski, the executive director, also volunteered to decrease her employment to part-time status in order to save funds.
So what’s going to happen? Hopefully, people will help out:
“Financially support, volunteer with duties, in-kind donations, cleaning, answering the phone, utilizing the center,” says Campos. “If you think the Center should be doing something, then come in and do it. The community has to make this happen.”
A handful of community members have thrown house parties in an effort to raise funds, as well. “All efforts are greatly appreciated,” says Witkowski.
Campos and Witkowski are equally concerned about the impact the closing of the Center will have on the city — and the impression it will leave residents with.
“If this Center closes, it’s a prime example that we don’t support ourselves,” says Campos. “What kind of message are we sending out to the city at large if our own community can’t support itself?”
“It’s exceptionally important for Charlotte — which is one of the fastest growing cities in the country — to have this Center,” says Witkowski. “Especially when there are so many new people moving here everyday from blue state areas to work in the banking industry. They need to know they’re coming to a gay-friendly place. It’s crucial for this city and our community that we continue to exist.”