Shorter Wins Design Contest

Grant Shorter, local graphic designer, has won the 2019 Festival T-Shirt Design Contest. Shorter will receive two free shirts for his efforts. Grant is no stranger to designing for Spencer Pride. The official Spencer Pride logo is a creation of him.

This has been a good year for the designer, who recently won the shirt design contest for the Historic Tivoli Theatre as well.

2019 festival t-shirts will go on sale at the end of May & will be available at the festival (while supplies last). The shirt will be available as a crew neck in a variety of bright colors, from sizes XS to 4X.

Pride Leaders Targeted; Community Response Begins

The incident was recently reported in the Herald-Times.

Within weeks of the failure of the Indiana State Legislature to pass comprehensive hate crimes legislation, the home of two of Spencer Pride’s founders was the target of several incidents of hate-driven trespass, vandalism, & theft.

Spencer Pride President Jonathan Balash, his husband Jacob, & 6-year old son live south of the town of Spencer in a home they have lived in for the past 10 years. The married couple, who have been together for 18 years, have resided in Owen County since 2001.

The incidents were described on Jonathan’s Facebook page on April 10 and 13. The couple state that on four occasions during the same week, individuals trespassed on their land with the intent to remove the pride flag that had been proudly flying alongside their rural country road.   The Facebook posts can be viewed here & here.

Jonathan & Jacob have done their best to make light of the situation & drive awareness to hate-motivated acts targeted at the LGBTQ+ community.

During the first few incidents, the perpetrators attempted to force the Balashes’ flagpole down by wrapping the pole with a steel chain and pulling it with a heavy-duty vehicle. This proved challenging due to the robust installation of the flagpole, which had been completed mindful of the fact that it could become a target.

According to an affidavit filed with the Owen County prosecutor by the Owen County Sheriff’s Department, the effort to bring down the flagpole ultimately failed when the vehicle’s bumper was torn off. While the pole did not come down, it was damaged significantly. Damage to the pole & the adjacent limestone wall has been estimated to cost $4,300. A few days later, the same location was targeted again. This time, the flagpole’s rope was cut & the flags were removed. The rainbow pride flag was then stolen. A trail cam that the couple had set up to identify the vandals was also taken.  All the incidents occurred under the cover of darkness at the couple’s home.

Immediately after the couple posted about the incidents on Facebook, the news of what had occurred traveled around the world & was shared by LGBTQ+ organizations in several countries. Social media support for the couple was very positive.  Some individuals responded to the incident by making donations to Spencer Pride in honor of Jonathan & Jacob.

Spencer Pride elected to respond by distributing free pride flags from the Spencer Pride commUnity center, which is located at 17 E. Franklin Street adjacent to the Owen County Courthouse. To date, more than 40 flags have been given out. Most recipients of the flags have volunteered to have their photo taken with the rainbow flag. As a result, rainbow colors are more prevalent than ever in the downtown area & across social media.  Since first announcing the flag distribution, the commUnity center has received increased visitors.  Many of those guests have attributed their attendance to be as a direct result of the flag distribution, or in general as a gesture of support for the LGBTQ+ community during this time.

Many individuals have come out to the Spencer Pride commUnity center to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community in response to the acts against the Balashes.

THE INVESTIGATION SO FAR

The Owen County Sheriff’s Department is treating the harassment of the Balash home as separate incidents & not as a single effort over multiple days. As a result of this decision, charges thus far have only been filed for criminal mischief & criminal trespass.  Both of these crimes are misdemeanors. Theft of the flag & camera, which would be a felony, have not been addressed. While the Owen County Sheriff’s Department’s investigation into the incidents is ongoing, to date only one person has been charged.   On one of the evenings where the vandalism took place at the Balash home, the same teens allegedly broke into cabins & stole thousands of dollars in electronics & miscellaneous items, including a firearm.   Charges related to that case have also been filed.  A preliminary hearing took place on April 18 at the Owen County Courthouse.  For more information on this, visit the Bloomington Herald-Times article that was published on April 19.

Several concerned citizens wrote letters to Owen County Judge Lori Quillen to stress the impact of the type of hate-focused crimes that are alleged to have taken place to the Balash home. Judith Epp, Spencer Pride Director, took the position that it is important to respond quickly & with the full force of the law.  “Treating this offense leniently sends a message that we don’t take it seriously,” Epp stated in her letter to Judge Quillen. “This isn’t about just one family, it’s about the entire community…Do we have to wait until one of us is personally violently assaulted [before action will be taken]?”

Joy Hellman, Spencer Pride Director & Youth Empowerment Lead, also wrote a letter.  Hellman, who has been instrumental in the forming of the Iris Youth Group, wrote her letter emphasizing the impact of this case on local LGBTQ+ youth. “The teens in this group have often spoken to me about not feeling safe due to the hateful acts of other teens.  This could be an opportunity to set a precedent, so that LGBTQ teens could feel more safe in their own community,” she wrote.

In total, at least 7 letters were sent to Judge Quillen to raise her awareness of the significance of this event.  These letters were sent to Quillen for her consideration during the preliminary hearing of the adult charged with the misdemeanor crimes.  To show additional support for the Balash family, approximately 10 local residents attended the hearing as well.

There is no question that this case was motivated by bias against the Balashes, who are a well-known gay couple that are involved in many organizations, most notably Spencer Pride. According to the aforementioned affidavit, Owen County Deputy Mitchell Fleetwood interviewed one of the individuals who confessed to the vandalism of the flagpole.  The deputy asked why the teens targeted that specific flagpole. The teen responded by saying that the residents of that home were “Big Time Queers.”

Regardless of this admission by the teen, no action is being taken by the Owen County Prosecutors Office to pursue increased penalties related to these crimes. The recently passed bias crimes legislation in Indiana, which does not serve to adequately define hate-motivated crimes, does not go into effect until July 1, 2019. It is questionable regarding whether the legislation would have enough teeth to be utilized in this type of incident, regardless.  The incident has been voluntarily reported to a National Hate Crimes Hotline due to the advocacy of several concerned citizens.

THE COUPLES’ RESPONSE

Jonathan & Jacob are known to be resilient when encountering these types of activities. When their pride flag has been targeted in the past, the couple has repeatedly responded by increasing the size of the flag, adding the flagpole, installing the limestone wall at the base of the flagpole, & other improvements.   The couple are vocal about the importance of LGBTQ+ visibility, especially in rural areas.

Jonathan Balash is currently serving as the President of Spencer Pride, Inc.

“We will not be pushed back into the closet by an ignorant Minority,” said Jonathan when asked about their responses to these incidents. “We continue to become more & more visible every time that someone tries to use our home as a target for their hate. Their acts are intending to scare us. We aren’t going to respond to their efforts with fear & anger. Instead, we choose to focus our energy on how to continue our work with Spencer Pride to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.”

Jacob is no less passionate about how the couple responds to the acts of hate. He also noted why comprehensive hate crimes legislation is important for Hoosiers. “This was more than trespassing. It was more than vandalism. It was more than theft. This was a concerted effort over several days to violate our property & terrorize my family. It is scary that people would carry out such actions because we are a same-sex household,” Jacob notes.

Jacob went on: “We are proud to live in Owen County & over the past two decades we’ve been overwhelmed by how welcoming our community is. This is where we have decided to raise our son. We aren’t going anywhere.”

In addition to repairing the damage done, the couple is also working to install power at the end of the driveway to support the installation of lights & cameras in order to deter further vandalism & theft. These efforts are challenged by the distance of the mailbox from their home, which is 1/4 mile down the driveway. While the couple works to put these long-term precautions in place, they have added some additional cameras to the space.

Jonathan & Jacob want to emphasize that crimes targeted at the LGBTQ+ community take place every day throughout the world.  “This isn’t a Spencer, Indiana, issue.  This isn’t a rural issue.  This is an issue from the rolling hills of San Francisco to the rolling hills of Spencer,” Jonathan stated.

Jacob Balash is a member of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors & is the Retail Manager for Unity, the organization’s shop in downtown Spencer.

Jacob immediately added: “We want to raise awareness about this event to serve as an example.  Although this did impact us emotionally, we want people to know that it could have been much worse.  Around the world right now, people are being bullied, harassed, fired, & even stoned to death for being gay.  It has to stop.”

ACTIONS THAT CAN BE TAKEN TO SHOW SUPPORT

Individuals who would like to show their support for the Balashes & other victims of hate-motivated crimes towards the LGBTQ+ community can do so in a variety of ways.

  1. Talk about this incident with people. Share it on social media. Engage with a coworker or neighbor. Bringing visibility to specific incidents like this raises awareness of the need for comprehensive hate crimes legislation.
  2. Proudly display a Pride Flag at your home or business. This tells people that you support the LGBTQ+ community & that you don’t want them to have to stand alone. If you do not own a pride flag, you can stop by the Spencer Pride commUnity center in downtown Spencer for a free one. The organization will continue distributing the flags for free over the coming weeks to help promote awareness of the events & to increase visible LGBTQ+ support in the community. Larger flags are available inexpensively on Amazon & at other retailers.
  3. Make a contribution to Spencer Pride on behalf of the Balash Family. The couple is known to be “Big Time Queers” because of their work with the organization. Making a financial donation to continue Spencer Pride’s work sends the message that we will not be bullied & that we will respond to events like this with more education & visibility.
  4. Become a volunteer with Spencer Pride. Our organization is 100% volunteer-powered & we have a lot of work that needs to be done to further educate our community in support of our mission to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.
  5. Attend the upcoming Spencer Pride Festival on June 1st.  Participating in the event shows how important LGBTQ+ people are within our community.  By attending the festival, you allow Spencer Pride to further our important work.

Spencer Pride will continue to provide updates about this matter.  For more information about how you can help Spencer Pride’s mission to make Indiana a more welcoming place, please e-mail info@SpencerPride.org. To learn more about the work of Spencer Pride & to get details about the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival, visit www.SpencerPride.org.

2019 Spencer Pride Festival Marketplace

The 2019 Spencer Pride Festival is fast approaching!  Vendor registration has been exceeding all prior records.    As of April 23, 2019, the following vendors will be participating in our festival marketplace:

  • ACLU of Indiana
  • Allie & Tess
  • Anthem
  • Aprons from the Heartland
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of South-Central Indiana
  • Bill’s Rustic Furniture
  • Bliss Glass
  • Bloomington PRIDE (Includes Prism Youth Community & LGBT Aging & Caring Network)
  • Bloomington Meadows Hospital
  • Boston Scientific PACE
  • BrightStarGlass
  • CARDINAL SPIRITS & PRIDE LOUNGE (21 & over)
  • Cardinal Stage Company
  • Catalent Biologics
  • C.H. Douglas & Gray Wealth Management
  • Cruise Planners – Naptown Travel
  • DJ’s Crafts & Sweets
  • DoTerra
  • Drunken Bard
  • El Centro Comunal Latino
  • Elanco
  • First United Church
  • Friends of the Forest
  • Fun Art
  • GenderNexus
  • Geno’s Kettle Corn
  • Grimnir’s Crossroad Kindred
  • Indiana Adoption Program
  • Indiana Crossroads Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
  • Indiana Donor Network
  • Indiana Health Centers – Owen County
  • IU Health & Wellness
  • IU Health Bloomington – Positive Link
  • IU School of Social Work
  • Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington
  • Jack of All Braids
  • Jacob’s Photography
  • Laci’s Bags
  • Larry Harris Quilts
  • Life of Love (LOL)
  • LifeJourney Church
  • Mary Kay Skincare
  • Meadows Bakery
  • Monroe County NOW
  • Moon Goddess Arts
  • My Sunshine Pet Apparel
  • National Association of Social Workers – Indiana Chapter
  • New Moon Divination LLC
  • Newton’s Legacy Woodworking & Engraving LLC
  • Osmon Chiropractic
  • Owen County Civic Theatre
  • Owen County Community Foundation
  • Owen County Democratic Party
  • Owen County Humane Society
  • Owen County Public Library Bookmobile
  • Paws-Abilities, Inc.
  • PFLAG Hanover/Madison
  • Pink Zebra
  • Pride Lafayette
  • Pride on the Wabash
  • Pride Sweets (brought to you by Spencer Pride)
  • Project Pink Bloc
  • Putnam County Hospital
  • Putnam Pride Initiative
  • Quarryland Men’s Chorus
  • Right on Q Concessions
  • Rye’s Concessions
  • Silky’s Specialty Items
  • Simply Divine Suds
  • Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
  • Spencer Main Street
  • Mark’s United Methodist Church
  • Stonewall Democrats of South Central Indiana
  • Sue Westhues
  • SuPaca Farms, LLC
  • Sweet Valley Ice Cream
  • The Back Door
  • The Litter Box Kitty Rescue
  • The Satanic Temple Indiana Chapter
  • The Shucker Shack
  • Tivoli Theatre
  • Tree Top Terrace Farms
  • TREES, Inc.
  • Tricoci University
  • Triple M Concessions
  • Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington
  • Uplands PEAK Sanctuary
  • White River Valley PFLAG – Spencer Chapter
  • Wired Whymsy
  • Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County
  • ZenWithin

If you are interested in taking part in our festival marketplace, please register today at www.SpencerPride.org/portal.

Note: there are no longer any booth spaces available on the courthouse lawn. All registrations as of April 22, 2019 will be placed on the street in either the food area or carnival area (at the discretion of Spencer Pride, Inc.)

Design Contest Underway; Entries Due April 15th

The official 2019 Spencer Pride Festival t-shirt design contest is now underway. Individuals interested in participating should review the requirements listed below. All entries are due by April 15th.

The artist of the winning design will receive online recognition as well as two free shirts (one to keep & one to share!). This year, all individuals who submit at least one design entry will receive a $10 discount towards the purchase of a t-shirt at the Spencer Pride commUnity center.

Contest Rules

  1. All entries are due April 15, 2019
  2. Entries must be in digital format & emailed to Jonathan@SpencerPride.org or left on a flash drive for Jonathan at the Spencer Pride commUnity center in downtown Spencer.
  3. The contest includes only the front design of the t-shirt. The back design will be created by Spencer Pride.
  4. All designs must refer to the 2019 Spencer Pride Festival and note this year’s festival theme: Millions of Moments of Pride.
  5. All designs must be appropriate for all-ages.
  6. All designs should avoid the usage of gradient fill. Gradient designs are often cost-prohibitive.
  7. Individuals who would like to include the Spencer Pride logo may request the logo from Jonathan (contact info above).
  8. There is no limit to the number of entries submitted per person.

Why Volunteer?

Volunteering to help others is a great way to stay active and vital in your community.  Each hour you volunteer is valued at $24.69. Eight (8) hours per week can save a not-for profit $197.52.  Your generous gift of time and talent can keep an organization up and running.  

 

Here are 3 simple ways to volunteer:

1. Make the small things count:  Sometimes simply going and picking up recycling can make a huge difference to a non-profit organization.
2. Filling the gaps: Local not-for-profits need individuals to help fill in when their regular employees/volunteers cannot be there.  Being an emergency call is a wonderful help.
3. Comfort and Support: Being a shoulder for someone to cry on or the person to give a hug can make a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.

Spencer Pride commUnity center is looking for volunteers. Our growth has created more opportunities for you to get involved. If you want to help in your community, be part of an amazing organization, and believe in the mission of Spencer Pride we would LOVE to have you as a part of our volunteer team.  

Opportunities include:

 Staffing the commUnity center retail store during various shifts Wednesday – Saturday. This may sound intimidating, but it’s fun & easy.
 Helping out at the Tivoli on the second Saturday of every month
 Lending a hand on general clean up days at the Center
 Assisting with the Spencer Pride Festival on the first Saturday in June

All of these opportunities come with training! We want you to feel confident volunteering for us.

If you believe in Spencer Pride, we would love to have you as a part of our volunteer family.  Please contact Dana Beth Evans the volunteer Coordinator at dana.beth@spencerpride.org. If you are interested specifically in volunteering at our commUnity center, please contact Jacob Balash at Jacob@SpencerPride.org. You can also call/text him at 812-821-1442.

 

All of our volunteers fill out an application and must submit to a background check. It’s quick, easy, & won’t cost you a thing!

 

If our organization isn’t a good fit for you, please consider volunteering at another Owen County not-for-profit.

 

Spencer Pride Conference to Bring Pride Organizers from Throughout the Midwest

Spencer Pride is set to host the Midwest Pride Conference from March 1-3, 2019.  The conference brings together representatives from LGBTQ+ Pride organizations to share best practices, attend training, & network together.  Attendees are registered from 6 Midwestern states, including Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Michigan, & Minnesota.

“Registration for this conference has exceeded our expectations,” said Jonathan Balash, president of Spencer Pride & the lead for the conference. “Last year’s conference in Detroit brought 37 attendees & we hoped to bring 55 this year; instead, we now have 74 registered participants.”  Spencer Pride stopped allowing new registrations once capacity had been achieved.   Most of the Spencer Pride Directors & Pride Festival Leads will attend the event as well.

The conference will primarily occur at the Spencer Pride commUnity center, although some educational sessions will occur at the Tivoli Theatre & activities for that Sunday will take place in the Oak Room of Canyon Inn at McCormick’s Creek State Park.    Out-of-town attendees will be staying at Canyon Inn.

Some of the conference workshop topics include: Modern Safety & Security at Pride Festivals, How to Have Pride & Make Change in Rural America, Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Pride Festivals, & Inclusion of People of Color in Pride Festivals. There will be a forum on volunteer recruitment & retention, a youth panel, & several “speed topics” segments, which allow for organizations to share best practices with their peers.  Speed topics are grouped into themes around such topics as outreach, promoting healthy lifestyles, expanding pride festivities to span a week or month, & “Show Me the Money.”  This last theme is focused on increasing event sponsorships or decreasing event costs.

In addition to the educational content of the conference, participants will also be exposed to other local attractions while they are in Spencer.  On Friday, March 1, Juniper Gallery, The Dragonfly Gallery, & the Spencer Pride commUnity center retail shop will be open for extended evening hours as a part of a “Shop Local” event.  Live entertainment & refreshments will be available at the commUnity center.  The new Spring collection will be debuted for the event as well, earlier than was originally planned.  Jaime Sweany, owner of The Juniper Gallery, decided to schedule the collection’s debut earlier due to the “Shop Local” event.

Each morning, conference attendees are invited to participate in guided tours at McCormick’s Creek State Park in order to promote healthy lifestyles & show off the area’s most popular attraction.

The Civilian Brewing Corps, a new brew pub in downtown Spencer that is scheduled to open to the public on March 3 will be hosting a ‘soft opening’ on March 2 for Spencer Pride’s guests.  It will allow the pub to test out their menu for the public with a more limited audience prior to their grand opening the next day.

Spencer Pride is spreading out their resources to support as many other local businesses as possible.  Coffee & refreshments will be purchased from both Main Street Coffee & Spencer Coffee Shop.   A local caterer will provide Saturday’s lunch.  On Saturday evening, guests will be welcomed for the first public event in the commUnity center’s upstairs ballroom, where beverages from Owen Valley Winery & Cardinal Spirits will be served.

On Sunday, Spencer Pride is excited to welcome State Senator JD Ford as a keynote speaker.  Ford, who was elected to the Indiana General Assembly this past November, is the first openly gay member of the IGA.

“This is the first conference that Spencer Pride has ever hosted,” said Balash.  “We could not be any happier with the opportunity to host these distinguished guests in our beautiful & welcoming community.”

For more information about Spencer Pride, visit www.SpencerPride.org.

Spencer Pride Board Expresses Thoughts on Legislation Impacting LGBTQ+ Hoosiers

The following statement was issued from the Spencer Pride Board of Directors regarding two pieces of legislation currently being considered by the Indiana General Assembly:

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors strongly supports the passage of a comprehensive hate crimes law in Indiana.  This bill would allow for imposing stronger penalties upon conviction of bias-related crimes against people on the basis of another individual’s actual or perceived age, ancestry, color, creed, disability, ethnicity, familial status, gender identity, military service, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.  Indiana is among only 5 states without such legislation.

 

The lack of a hate crimes law in Indiana has had a negative impact on economic development initiatives and has given Indiana the reputation of not being a welcoming state.  This contradicts Spencer Pride’s mission of making Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.

Support for hate crimes legislation is bipartisan.  Hate crimes legislation is supported by Governor Eric Holcomb.  We, as directors of Spencer Pride, encourage all state legislators to vote yes on House Bill 1203 (Bias Motivated Crimes).

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors does not support House Bill 1525 (Biological Sexual Identity), which further exacerbates bias and hate.  In addition to creating a poor environment for our youth, this bill would add burdens to our state schools, including new infrastructure requirements & difficult-to-enforce monitoring requirements.

The Spencer Pride Board of Directors urges legislators to vote NO on House Bill 1525.

Supporting Spencer Pride this #GivingTuesday & All Year

BY LESLIE NIEVES

Here are some great ways to support Spencer Pride year-round, without costing you a cent!

Kroger donates funds to nonprofits through your use of its Kroger Plus Card when you shop. By filling out a short form at Kroger’s customer service desk, you can get a Kroger Plus Card, which provides savings as you shop & discounts on gasoline purchases.  At Kroger’s community rewards website (https://www.kroger.com/topic/kroger-community-rewards-3), you can register your Plus Card to send a percentage of your purchases from Kroger to Spencer Pride. Our code number is EU 230. Forward this information to your friends and family in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, & West Virginia and ask them to support us, too.

Amazon donates a percentage of your purchases to nonprofits when you use its Smile website to shop.  AmazonSmile is a website operated by Amazon with the same products, prices, & shopping features as Amazon.com. The difference is that when you shop on AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice.  On your first visit to AmazonSmile smile.amazon.com you will be prompted to select a charitable organization to receive donations. Search for & select Spencer Pride. AmazonSmile will remember your selection & then every eligible purchase you make at smile.amazon.com will result in a donation.

Many corporations match employee donations to nonprofits. Find out if your employer will match donations &, if your employer offers that benefit, apply to have your donations to Spencer Pride doubled.

Pass this information to your family & friends & ask them to join you in supporting Spencer Pride.

Pass this information to your family and friends and ask them to join you in supporting Spencer Pride.

 

Grant Update

BY JUDI EPP, TREASURER

Judi accepts a check for the Monroe County Board of Realtors from Mark Rogers of the Owen County Community Foundation.

We have made wonderful progress with our grant process! We’ve received the first installment from the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bloomington of $1,700, $500 from the Monroe County Board of Realtors for work on the building façade, & $5,000 from the Smithville Charitable Foundation for replacement of the horribly leaky roof in the rear of Unity. The new roof in that area has now been installed! We also received $1,000 from SCI REMC for some interior finishes.

Tarps were placed above the old kitchen area in order to reduce the flow of water into Unity. While the tarps helped, this was only a temporary partial fix.

 

 

 

The roof is nearly complete in this photo. The contracts worked in cold, rainy conditions but managed to complete the roof in just a few days. 

 

 

We’re still working on our 50 From 50 Campaign. We need 35 additional supporters to step up & make a recurring donation of $50 a month to cover our monthly expenses so we can use all grant funds for building restoration & programming. If you haven’t done so, please consider this avenue of support. If you’re already participating, please tell your friends & family! Go to www.spencerpride.org, select donate, & follow the prompts. One time donations are always welcome as well! Your company may even do a matching grant!

Subtracting the Addition

BY JACOB BALASH

Pictured here are the before & after images of the front & back of the Spencer Pride commUnity center. The front shows the recent elimination of the awning over the meeting room door & the broken sign holder. The back shows the demolition of the addition, as described in this article.

Over the past few months, you may have noticed that we’ve spent a considerable amount of time trimming our rear at the center.  While this is a common post-holiday habit for people who’ve consumed the usual abundance of holiday foods, it wasn’t extra calories we were eliminating.  Instead, volunteers orchestrated the complete demolition of the poorly-constructed addition near our parking area in the back.

This was an important project for a variety of reasons.  The building was in complete disrepair & was leaking severely.  Mold had taken over, & the smell was seeping into our meeting area.  It would have taken a significant financial investment to salvage this space at all, but there was no reason to save it.  It was not historical or particularly valuable.

In advance of the demolition work, we had to prepare the space.  Power & telephone lines had to be relocated.  Once this was completed, we began the ‘fun’ work.

First, volunteers cleaned out the materials which had been stored in the structure.  While some of this was disposed, much of it was salvaged for repurpose or recycling.  Huge vintage timbers, boxes of ceramic tiles, & other items were able to find new homes.    We carefully removed the embossed tin siding as it is valuable & can be repurposed or sold.

After the space was emptied, we exposed all of the boarded-up windows & doors so that we could get some light inside.  This was a huge help later.

Hoss & Connie are show here after a long, but productive day working on demolition of the addition.

Next, we removed the roof in sections.  This was hot & dirty work.  For a few of our volunteer sessions there were outdoor heat advisories, but our volunteers were committed to seeing the project through before winter weather arrived.  Once the roof was removed, we took down the walls.

Finally, we jackhammered the poured concrete floor.  We are in the process now of removing the stone that we broke up.  The gas company relocated the improperly installed gas lines, & they also upgraded the meter after determining that it was also incorrect for our building.

Once we finish the last bit of clean-up, we will immediately recognize the extra parking places that have been created by the demolition.  The center is also safer, more compliant, & definitely more attractive.

This project wasn’t pretty or easy, but it was rewarding.  I appreciate the donation of time & resources provided by Connie, Sheryl, Hoss, Larry, Andrew, Fred, Jason, Emily, Josh, & Mackenzie.  Their dedication to improving our center is obvious in the excellent work they did for this project.  THANK YOU!

For more information about other volunteer opportunities to improve the center, please reach out to Judi or me.  There’s a lot more we can do, especially now that we have started to receive some grant funds for these types of projects.

 

Spencer Pride Featured in Documentary Film





Grass Fed Cinema, run by filmmaker John Scott, released their latest documentary film on Thursday.    The newest film, The Slower Path, features Spencer Pride.  Grass Fed Cinema is a website that produces documentary films about interesting, unique, and inspiring people who call the midwest home

Scott discovered the Spencer Pride Festival through his friends who attended the event every year.  

“I knew right away that Spencer Pride would be a great topic for a short film,” said Scott.  “Just the visual alone of a gay pride festival taking place on a courthouse square of a small town in Indiana was really appealing to me.”

Scott attended the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival in June, where he filmed the documentary.   

Scott described his experience:  “I think the most surprising thing about the festival was the overall size of the event and how the entire town was taking part in it. I thought there would be protest or maybe even just locals looking upset but there wasn’t any of that. There was a vibe of celebration and hope that you could feel throughout the entire town all day.”

Now that his short documentary about Spencer Pride is finished, Scott will move on to his next project.   He is focusing on Bike a Bee, in Chicago, IL. 

The Slower Path runs approximately 8 minutes in length & features many scenes from the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival.  The film can be found at https://youtu.be/F4WCqTlD6aI.  

Annual Meeting Has Huge Turnout

The video was a very popular element of the annual meeting

On Sunday, August 5th, fifty-three people came to the commUnity center for Spencer Pride’s Annual General Meeting. The attendees included volunteers as well as individuals from the community who were interested in learning more about the organization’s achievements over the past year.

Lots of refreshments were provided, donated by volunteers & attendees. Four door prizes were drawn throughout the evening. Items included riverboat cruises, a framed print, & two gift baskets from Unity (the retail shop within the Spencer Pride commUnity center).

Joy Hellman shows off her excitement at having been elected to the Board of Directors

President Jonathan Balash kicked off the meeting & served as emcee throughout. Several members of the Board of Directors also presented, including Joy Hellman, Jacob Balash, Cathy Wyatt, Judi Epp, & Dana Beth Evans.

After the initial welcome, a special video was shown depicting the activities & events that volunteers participated over the last year. The nearly 5-minute video was set to the song This is Me from the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman. Throughout the video volunteers were shown holding signs that said ‘There’s a Place for Us,” which was a reference to one of the lyrics & served as the perfect tie-in to the general message that Spencer Pride is a place where everyone can feel accepted & celebrated, regardless of how they identify.

Judi Epp presented during the Annual General Meeting on August 5

Once the video concluded & Kleenex was distributed to aid in the drying of many happy tears, the next item on the evening’s agenda was of a review of major 2018 accomplishments & financial results. This was provided by Jacob, Cathy, & Judi.

  • The organization’s purchase of the Franklin Street building in October was the largest of the accomplishments, however, there were many others as well.
  • Attendance at both the Pride Festival & LGBTQ+ History Month event were higher than ever. The participation of downtown businesses, in particular, skyrocketed 143% over last year.
  • More than 10,500 volunteer hours were logged last year. Using the standard accounting method based on Indiana’s per-hour volunteer rate, this places a value of approximately $220,500 on these hours. 43 individuals volunteered with Spencer Pride for the first time this past year.
  • The organization received considerable media attention this year. Front cover articles were featured in both the Spencer Evening World as well as the Bloomington Herald-Times. Significant emphasis was also placed on the organization’s inclusion in the annual Boston Pride Guide, which has tens of thousands of hard copies distributed throughout New England alongside hundreds of thousands of views online.
  • Financially, the organization did quite well. Excluding the purchase of the building & associated improvements (all of which had not been a part of the original budget), the expenses were $443 more than planned & the income was $4,205 more than planned. Based upon what we had expected when the budget was approved last August, these numbers are fantastic.
  • When including the purchase of the building, expenses were over the plan by $31,326 & the income was $23,155 more than planned. This excludes debt taken on due to the mortgage with OCSB & a note from an anonymous supporter. These will be amortized over the life of the loans.
  • Although the purchase & investment in the building was not part of the original budget, it was a major accomplishment for the past year. The organization was able to make the investment (utilizing financing from Owen County State Bank) while still maintaining confidence in our ability to sustain ourselves. Almost $19,000 in Rainbow Capital Campaign funds were brought in to support the effort.
  • FY2018 brought in more income from sponsorships, grants, & donations than any prior year.
  • Two funds were created with the Owen County Community Foundation (one capital & one sustaining)
The 2019 Officer Slate was approved unanimously.

After reviewing 2018, elections took place for the addition of Joy Hellman to the Board of Directors and for the affirmation of the existing slate of Officers to continue for another year. The slate included Jonathan Balash as president, Katie Zuber as secretary, & Judi Epp as treasurer. All of the votes were unanimous in favor of these recommendations.

An overview of current & available leadership positions was provided by Dana Beth. The only current open position is the External Events Coordinator. This role will be responsible for the registration & planning for all events that Spencer Pride volunteers attend.

A newly created role, the Outreach Lead, has been filled by Cathy Wyatt. This role will manage how the organization engages & supports other organizations & events.

Next, the discussion focused on 2019 & beyond.

Jonathan discussed changes to the organization’s scope of work, noting that periodically it’s healthy to reevaluate how the organization spends its financial & volunteer resources. At the recent Strategic Planning Retreat, the Board made a few key decisions:

  • Focusing on one annual event, the Spencer Pride Festival. This is the event Spencer Pride is most well-known for & it has the biggest impact on community engagement. ‘A Night at the Tivoli,’ the organization’s LGBTQ+ History Month film event, will no longer be a public event beginning in 2019. Instead, an appreciation event will be planned at the Tivoli Theatre for volunteers.
  • Focusing on in-house educational opportunities, such as the recent Substance Abuse 101 training & the upcoming Intersex 101 class on October 15th. Spencer Pride will no longer offer diversity panels beginning in 2019. Similar panels are available locally from other organizations. Spencer Pride volunteers already participate in those other panels so it was get that we were offering something that wasn’t needed.
  • Focusing on Iris, Spencer Pride’s youth group. Iris is an important part of our organization & will be further invested in to ensure that it continues to be a safe, celebratory place for our youth. The scholarship Spencer Pride has offered for the last 3 years will no longer be available beginning in 2019. Instead, those funds will be utilized to support the higher education pursuits of youth involved directly with Iris.
  • As a result of these changes, the scope of the organization now encompasses four main areas: the Spencer Pride commUnity center, Spencer Pride Festival, Iris Youth Group, & Outreach.
  • Strategic Goals for 2019 were outlined. They include:
    • Promote 50 from 50 campaign (more information about this campaign can be found on our website or by contacting Judi@SpencerPride.org.)
      Refine & Manage Outreach Strategy (this will be defined by the Board & managed by the new Outreach Lead)
      Invest in Volunteer Engagement & Development
    George Brinson shows off the meeting rules during the event.
  • Long-term Strategic Goals were also recently updated to reflect the current direction of the organization:
    • Be an LGBTQ+ Advocate
      Increase utilization of commUnity center
      Complete rehabilitation of commUnity center
      Cultivate financial sustainability
      Support local LGBTQ+ youth

    Judi then presented the FY2019 budget, which included $95,549 in income & $78,215 in expenses. The budget was unanimously approved.

    And finally, brief updates were given on festival committee opportunities and our upcoming LGBTQ+ History Month Activities.

    The meeting concluded at 6:01 PM. Many individuals expressed positive feedback about the event, due to the transparency & depth of the information provided. Individuals were especially touched by the volunteer video.

    Annual General Meeting This Sunday: Public is Welcome

    Each August, we host our Annual General Meeting. Despite the “blah” title, this meeting is a BIG DEAL! We want to show you what YOU have accomplished this year, along with our goals & budget for next year. We’d LOVE it if you would come out & join us!

    Date: Sunday, August 5th

    Time: 4-6 PM

    Location: Spencer Pride commUnity center

    Agenda items:
    – Year-in-Review, including the Financial Summary
    – Officer Elections (for vote)
    – 1-Year & Long-Term Strategic Goals
    – Proposed Budget (for vote)
    – Hot Topics (LGBTQ History Month Activities, Festival Committee Sign-ups)

    Join your volunteer friends to celebrate the year & see what’s in store for the next, & bring a new friend along!

    We will have refreshments & door prizes, too!

    Will You Be One of Our “50 From 50”?

    Do you believe in making Indiana a safer & more welcoming place? Then join Spencer Pride as one of the “50 From 50!”

    What is “50 From 50?”

    You know Spencer Pride focuses on educating the public about rural lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer (LGBTQ+) people & issues to cultivate a community of compassion & celebration for all people.  By having 50 supporters join our fundraising campaign & donate a minimum of $50 a month, it will allow the day-to-day operations of Spencer Pride to continue without extra effort & free up grant & donation funds for expanding our programs & the rehab of our new commUnity center building.

    We know you want to see us continue this important work.  It couldn’t be easier to help us do that, & your donation is tax deductible!

    Just click on the link below, select the Donate Now button in the top righthand corner, then check the repeat monthly box.  Fill out the form & your payment information, & you’re all set!

    Donate

    Lots of Sunshine & Pride at 2018 Festival

    The 2018 Spencer Pride Festival took place this past Saturday in downtown Spencer. An estimated 3,000 people filled the courthouse lawn & adjacent streets shopping, participating in different activities, & enjoying the live, local entertainment from the Ivy Tech Stage. The day was sunny & warm, making it ideal for an early June outdoor event.

    COMMUNITY CENTER ACTIVITY PARTICIPATION INCREASED SIGNIFICANTLY OVER 2017

    The Spencer Pride commUnity center, the local headquarters of festival organizer Spencer Pride, Inc., was open throughout the event & hosted many different activities. 1,400 people entered the doors of the commUnity center that day.

    Nearly 30 raffles were drawn in the afternoon, with participation in the raffles doubling from the prior year. The $4200 worth of raffle items were all donated by individuals & businesses in the region, including many of the vendors of the commUnity center’s retail shop, Unity.

    Some of the big raffle winners included: Glenda Breeden (hot air balloon ride for 2), Debbie Messer (rainbow Adirondack chair), Sienna Bates (rainbow Adirondack chair), Dan Bixler (2 tickets to James Taylor & Bonnie Raitt concert), Amanda Terrell (overnight stay for 2 at the French Lick Resort, plus $100 food voucher), Jane Rubeck (Cardinal Spirits Distillery Tour & Bottle Set), & Pauline Allan (4 tickets to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum plus A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo Book).

    Two 50-50 drawings took place. Nearly $400 in prize money was awarded. One of the recipients was Big Brothers Big Sisters, a local not-for-profit organization.

    New this year was “Drag Queen Storytime,” which took place at 2:30 in the afternoon in the commUnity center’s Gathering Place. Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash said that he anticipated only about 10 children to participate in this first-ever event. Much to his surprise & happiness, more than 30 kids took part in the reading.

    “Seeing so many youths attentively watching Pat Yo Weave read The Princess & the Pizza was wonderful!” Balash said exuberantly. “So many kids filled the Gathering Place that there was hardly room for their parents. They had to stand at the edges of the room, spilling into both the meeting room & shop.”

    Rainbow Crossing guards were attentively standing at the corner of Main Street & Franklin Street all day, ensuring that festival attendees could pass safely across the street to get to & from the commUnity center. Current construction in downtown Spencer has increased the utilization of Franklin Street & Spencer Pride organizers wanted to do everything possible to prevent any accidents. The Rainbow Crossing guards proved to be a big success as there were no safety
    incidents that day. The volunteers serving as guards proudly waved rainbow flags as they escorted people along the crosswalk.

    FESTIVAL MARKETPLACE WAS EXPANSIVE

    The marketplace of festival booths was the largest in Spencer Pride history: 105 organizations participated this year. Most of the food vendors were located in the parking lot of the courthouse. Food vendors included Spencer Main Street, who sold out of their famous barbecue during the festival. Meadow’s Bakery sold fresh pretzels & Geno’s Kettle Corn offered a diverse array of popcorn, including their rainbow mix. There were many vendors offering typical fair foods, like elephant ears & nachos. New this year was a vendor selling vegetarian chili. Nate’s Candy Jar offered a special rainbow fudge to visitors of their booth.

    More than 50 booths offered items & services for sale, with the balance of the marketplace consisting of not-for-profit organizations who used the festival to share information about their missions. While there were many vendors who had participated in past Spencer Pride Festivals, there were also many new organizations & businesses represented including Civilian Brewing Corp & Friends of the Forest.

    Moon Goddess Arts won the ‘most colorful booth’ prize. Youth Services Bureau of Monroe County won for ‘most engaging booth.’ Festival attendees could be seen wearing rainbow “Safe Place” sunglasses throughout the grounds all afternoon. These were one of the many prizes available at the YSB booth. Both organizations will have their 2019 vendor fees waived due to their efforts this year.

    Festival sponsor IU Health Bloomington offered free HIV testing throughout the day. The confidential testing took place at the Tivoli Theatre thanks to a partnership between the theatre & Spencer Pride organizers. IU Health employees were also on hand to answer questions about PrEP, a tool proven highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV.

    Cardinal Spirits managed the Pride Lounge for the second year, responsibly serving their locally-made spirits to attendees age 21 & over.

    ENTERTAINMENT & OTHER ALL-AGES ACTIVITIES CONTINUE POPULARITY

    The main stage of the festival, sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College – Bloomington, featured a diverse array of artists. From the youthful rock of Inkwell Moon to the worldly sounds of Adam Riviere, there was something for everyone this year. The Trip returned for their second year at Spencer Pride, increasing their audience this year due to their growing popularity & recent appearance on Indianapolis television station WISHTV. The Quarryland Men’s Chorus, which has become a Spencer Pride staple over the years, introduced their new director to the crowd. Different Drummer Belly Dancers, The Retrovales, Owen County Civic Theatre, Zumba with Nancy Emerson, & the soulful sound of Window to My Soul rounded out the lineup.  Stable Studios provided the high quality sound equipment throughout the day.

    The day began with the fourth annual Pet Pride Parade, which included a couple of dozen contestants. “Max’ a furry canine companion, was the winner this year. Max won a basket of goodies donated by Town & County Veterinary Clinic in Spencer.

    The culmination of the day’s entertainment was the Ladies of Spencer Pride Drag Show, which hosted 5 queens this year. The Spencer Pride Festival is the only place in the Midwest where a drag show is performed on a county courthouse lawn.

    This year, festival organizers re-branded their Market Street family fun area as Camden’s Carnival. The carnival, which was named for the organization’s gender non-binary raccoon mascot, encompassed most of the street to the south of the courthouse. A huge 8-foot tall painting of Camden stood at the center of the carnival, eagerly awaiting photo opportunities with carnival participants. Camden’s Carnival consisted of multiple games, inflatable activities, Aerialogy, & a small vintage auto show. The carnival was a huge hit with the crowd this year which continued to include an increasing number of families. Face painting & the deluxe slip-n-slide were the most popular elements of the carnival this year.

    VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR AWARD PRESENTED

    Jacob Balash was presented with Spencer Pride’s “Volunteer of the Year” award by the organization’s leadership. Judi Epp, treasurer & volunteer coordinator, noted that Balash’s contribution was mainly focused on the renovation of the commUnity center.

    “Jacob volunteered countless hours to get the center ready for opening. From the day we closed on the purchase of our new building, we had completed the 1st floor renovations within 4 months. Much of that was due to Jacob’s passion & persistence.”

    Epp elaborated further: “Jacob worked from morning to night many days, ensuring that we were ready for the next contractor or next phase of work. Our goal was not an easy one to accomplish, but thanks to volunteers like Jacob, we completed the work on time.”

    “Spencer Pride is 100% volunteer-fueled, & without the help of dedicated volunteers like Jacob, we wouldn’t be able to do anything,” Epp concluded.

    REFLECTING ON THE FESTIVAL

    Volunteers at Spencer Pride, Inc., were exuberant with the success of this year’s festival.

    “With the growth in attendance this year we saw many new faces & increased participation in our activities,” said secretary Katie Zuber. “Many of the new attendees were young families who have heard about the family-focused & welcoming Spencer Pride Festival. We hope that they enjoyed their first event with us & that this will be the first of many more to come.”

    Zuber encouraged individuals who attended the event to share their feedback via their online festival survey, which can be found at www.SurveyMonkey.com/r/SpencerPride.

    Sponsors of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival included: Cook Medical, Boston Scientific, Walmart, French Lick Resort, Tivoli Theatre, BloomingOUT, & Spencer Evening World, among many more.

    The next Spencer Pride Festival will be held on June 1, 2019, and will be the 13th annual event. Interested individuals are encouraged to stay up-to-date on Spencer Pride’s work by continuing to visit their website and Facebook pages.

    Spencer Pride organizers expressed appreciation for attendees, vendors, & sponsors of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival. It was the best attended & most engaging Spencer Pride event yet.
    More information about Spencer Pride and the Spencer Pride Festival can be found at throughout our website.