“Free Mom Hugs Tour” Coming to Spencer Pride commUnity center

FMHTOn May 1, the first ever “Free Mom Hugs Tour” launched from Oklahoma City.  The tour will be making a stop in Spencer this Saturday, May 6 at the Spencer Pride commUnity center, which is located at 46 E. Market Street.  Kicking off at 4 PM, the event will include distribution of countless “free mom hugs” to anyone interested in receiving one.

The “Free Mom Hugs Tour” is making way to its final destination at the historic Stonewall Inn in New York City.   The tour will stop in 10 cities & surrounding communities.  The purpose of the tour is to reassure the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, & queer) community that they are valued & loved, & to raise awareness of their dignity & worth.

The “Free Mom Hugs Tour” is the brainchild of two mothers of LGBTQ children: Sara Cunningham of Oklahoma City & Laura Beth Taylor of Dayton, Tenn. Cunningham, the parent of a gay man & author of How We Sleep at Night, is a well-known advocate for participating in PRIDE events, carrying her “Free Mom Hugs” banner. When she reached out to Taylor, a transwoman who is the parent of LGBTQ children and author of Shattering Masks, the plan took shape.

“This isn’t a march; we’re not setting out to protest something, but rather to attest that all people – regardless of the margins in which they find themselves – are deserving of love, dignity & compassion,” Taylor explained. “Our goal is to express that in each city we visit as we encourage others to do so, too.  It’s a simple exercise of loving our neighbors,” she added.

Cunningham noted, “Every time I’m out with the banner, I meet more youth & young adults who need reassurance that they are not alone, that there are people who love & support them. I also meet parents who need to be encouraged on their path of loving & accepting their LGBTQ kids. That’s the message we will carry along with our banner.”

The Tour culminates in New York City on May 14, which is Mother’s Day, near the historic Stonewall Inn, considered by many to be the birthplace of the LGBTQ equality movement. Subsequent annual Tours will conclude on Mother’s Day at other landmarks significant in the history of the LGBTQ equality movement.

Laura Beth Taylor explained that they found out about the Spencer Pride commUnity center when they initialy struck out looking for something in Indianapolis.  They expanded their search window & saw that Spencer had its own LGBTQ+ center.  “We were so excited to see something outside of a major city – where community is often more personal,” Taylor said.

The overall rate of homelessness & suicide in the LGBTQ community is nearly 10 times the rate of the general population, according to the CDC. Furthermore, it is estimated that 25 percent of LGBTQ youth who come out in religious circles are immediately turned away by their families. The “Free Mom Hugs Tour” demonstrates what love & support can look like and educate community leaders about the unnecessary risks LGBTQ children, youth & young adults face on a daily basis.

Spencer, Indiana, is the smallest town in the United States with a dedicated LGBTQ+ center.  The Spencer Pride commUnity center opened in September 2016 & will be expanding over the next year to offer additional services to the community.  It is currently a certified Safe Place & an LGBTQ+ Safe Zone.  It is also the home of Unity, a distinct retail shop selling items made by Hoosier artists & craftspeople.  100% of all profits from Unity support Spencer Pride, Inc.   Spencer Pride is a 100% volunteer-led 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization established in 2007.  More information about Spencer Pride can be found at www.SpencerPride.org.

Sara & Laura stopped at the Equality House in the first part of their tour, which launched from Oklahoma City on May 1stSara & Laura stopped at the Equality House in the first part of their tour, which launched from Oklahoma City on May 1st

Festival T-Shirts Unveiled; On Sale Soon

The 2017 official Spencer Pride Festival t-shirt design was unveiled today.  The design is a simple one with a patriotic flare & a clear tie to Spencer Pride’s vision of making Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.

The shirts will be available exclusively at the Spencer Pride commUnity center in sizes ranging from small through 3XL.  Shirts will be available in two styles (v-neck or crew neck) & in 6 different colors.

The 2017 Spencer Pride Festival t-shirts will be sold for $14.99.  Individuals purchasing two shirts together will receive a $5 discount off of their purchase.

The Spencer Pride commUnity center will have the shirts on sale once they are available from the printer, which will be at the end of May.

The 2017 Spencer Pride Festival will take place on Saturday, June 3 from 10 AM until 5 PM.

WTP - Front - on Green - Final

WTP - Front - Final

WTP - Back - Design - Final

April Roadside Cleanup Underway

Truman at CleanupSpencer Pride is proud to be partnering once again with Owen County Garden Club for Sweet Owen Community Clean-Up Month.   As a part of that effort, which was announced last month, we’ve been encouraging everyone in Owen County to clean up roadside trash all month long.

The Garden Club and Spencer Pride each held their own days where volunteers from the organizations were encouraged to come out in groups to participate.  There have been additional organizations who have taken up the call to do these types of events as well.

In addition to the larger volunteer days, a significant amount of work has been done by individuals within the community.  If you’ve seen black bags setting along the roadside this month, it was likely due to the clean-up efforts of local citizens who’ve been participating and taking advantage of the ability to dispose of this roadside trash absolutely free.

 

We hope that this effort both beautifies the county as well as shows our youth the importance of leaving the world a better place than we found it.

Roadside Trash

April Meeting Keeps Festival Momentum Going

On Sunday, April 2, volunteers met for our monthly meeting to plan and organize the upcoming Spencer Pride Festival.  The meeting was well-attended.  Our demolition work day was the same afternoon, so we had to relocate our meeting to the courthouse lawn because the commUnity center wasn’t yet cleaned and put back together.  Thankfully, the sun was out and it was a beautiful, bright Spring afternoon for a meeting outdoors.

After going through the usual business updates and general discussion about the festival, the 3 committees broke out for focused conversation about our key areas.  Updates from each committee are below.

Welcoming
The Welcoming Committee is shown here in the foreground.

The entire group also discussed 3 other topics of importance.

  • Decorations for the stage:  We discussed this for a short period of time to generate some ideas.  Ultimately it was agreed that final decisions on decorations could wait until the May volunteer meeting.
  • T-Shirt designs:  The t-shirt design needs to be drafted so that we can start the process of having the shirts made.  We will reach out to some local artists to see if they are interested in helping to design the shirt. We need their ideas within 2 weeks in order to meet our timeline for the shirts.  The goal is to order the shirts by no later than May 1st.
  • Cardinal Spirits partnership:  Cardinal Spirits (a local distillery in Bloomington) will be selling cocktails at Spencer Pride.  This is a first for us.  We believe that we can maintain a family-friendly atmosphere while allowing responsible drinking as well.  We will have Cardinal set up their canopy and a pride lounge (the only area where drinking will be permitted) on the south lawn.

If you are interested in helping plan our event, or if you are interested in volunteering at our event in any way, please send us an e-mail at info@SpencerPride.org and we will be happy to get you the necessary information to get started.  We’d love to have you join our family.  It’s fun and it makes a difference!  In May, we will be meeting every Sunday from 4-6 to work on the festival plans.

The Welcoming Committee discussed the following:

  • Decorations for the welcome booth in order to make it more visible.  Purchases will be made over the coming month to support this.
  • We need to get the right supplies for our roaming 50-50 sales.
  • The strategy for updating the informational kiosk.  Some things need to be printed in advance from VistaPrint for weather-protection.  Other items (such as sponsor recognition) we aren’t able to discuss until we get closer to the event and understand the number of sponsors we will need to advertise on the kiosk.
  • We will not be using the merchandise cart on the lawn; instead, it will be used by the Activities committee as a prominent location from which to sell Dunk Tank tickets on the street.
  • The billboard design is complete and was sent to Lamar.
  • The festival fliers will be designed by a local artists (who is also one of our volunteers).  The plan is to have the fliers printed locally and ready to distribute to our volunteers at the May meeting.
  • The festival program will need to be printed by mid-May.  Volunteers will review last year’s program for recommended changes and the committee will finalize plans at the May volunteer meeting.
The Activities Committee
The Activities Committee

The Activities Committee made the following decisions:

  • Contracts are ready to be signed and paid this week for Bloomington Aeriology and PartyZone Rentals.  Bloomington Aeriology will be participating in Spencer Pride for the first time and will be doing both performance as well as lessons throughout the day.  PartyZone will be providing a Bounce House, 3-in-1 Sports Challenge, Deluxe Slip-n-Slide, Toddler Town, and Dunk Tank.   These will all be placed on Market Street.
  • The dunk tank will utilize the old merchandise cart.  This will help bring some shade to the street for our volunteers staffing this booth, plus it will draw more attention because of the large umbrella.
  • We need to spend time soliciting for raffle donations. We do not have many items as of this time.

The Marketplace Committee, which has a lighter load that doesn’t kick into high gear until May, discussed the following next steps:

  • We need to update the vendor communication letter, which will be sent Mid-May.  We will likely also send a reminder e-mail this month to those who have already registered, stating that the set-up information will be coming in Mid-May.
  • We need to update the layout based on some of the changes that have occurred this year.  After that is complete, we can begin making vendor assignments.
  • The inventory of our canopies and tables needs to take place in the next 4-5 weeks.
The reason we couldn't meet in the commUnity center
The reason we couldn’t meet in the commUnity center

Demolishing Expectations (& Walls) at the commUnity center

CrewPennyOn Sunday, April 2, nearly 15 Spencer Pride volunteers spent the day doing some really nasty work at the commUnity center.  They hammered, sawed, pried, & shoveled to clean the old paneling, plaster, & other surfaces off of the 130-year old brick walls in the back of the center.

This effort was undertaken to help further prepare the space (hopefully for the upcoming installation of air conditioning) & to continue our effort to restore & beautify our building.

This was a disgusting job, but our dedicated volunteers went all-in.  They donned appropriate safety gear, tools, & set to work on the task.  Our original goal was to expose as much of the walls in the back room that we were able to do.

In the end, ALL of the walls were completely cleared.   Volunteers also removed one wall entirely near the back of the center & cleaned up some of the mess out back.

MarissaWe always say that we have amazing volunteers.  This is just one more example of their passion & dedication.  Being paid with nothing but donuts, home-made cinnamon rolls, & pizza, our resilient crew knocked down our expectations!

TomCathy

Mascot Name Ideas Flooding In!

When we first asked the public to provide name recommendations for our new mascot, we had no idea how many would come flooding in!  Below are a list of the names we’ve collected from suggestions thus far (we started on March 15th).  We will continue to update this list through April 30th.  In May, Spencer Pride volunteers will narrow the list down to 5 or 10 ideas.  Then, on June 3rd at the 2017 Spencer Pride Festival, attendees will be given the opportunity to vote.  By the end of the festival, our mascot will finally have a name!

If you have any suggestions you’d like us to add to our list for consideration, e-mail them to us at info@SpencerPride.org or send them to us via Facebook Messenger.

Mascot Name Suggestions (in alphabetical order)

  • Bellamy
  • Cam
  • Camden
  • Casey
  • Charlie
  • Coony
  • Cooper
  • Ellis
  • Gaize
  • Gaizey
  • Hope
  • Jamie
  • Lotus
  • Owen
  • Proud Procy
  • Pat
  • Rainbow
  • Rainbow Powers
  • Rally
  • Randi
  • Rasca
  • Richochet
  • Ricky
  • Rikki
  • Riley
  • River
  • Robin
  • Rocco
  • Rory
  • Rowdy
  • Rowley
  • Ru
  • Rudy
  • Shay
  • Skylar
  • Spence
  • Spencer
  • Stonewall
  • Tivoli
  • Wyatt

Now Introducing…….?

mascot color printing file

Help us name our new mascot! Our mascot prefers the pronouns “They/Them/Their.” They are a raccoon.

Did you know that a group of raccoons is called a “gaize?”

Please suggest names by commenting on our post on the Spencer Pride Facebook page or by sending your suggestions via e-mail to info@SpencerPride.org. We are taking suggestions from now until April 31st.

The final name selection will be made by attendees at this year’s 2017 Spencer Pride Festival.

The mascot will be featured prominently in the Owen County Coloring Book that Spencer Pride will be publishing later this year.

Successful Turnout at March Meeting; Lots of Festival Work Underway!

This past Sunday, volunteers met for the monthly Spencer Pride planning meeting.  Although planning for our event begins immediately after the prior year’s event ends, the work of our volunteers gets more intense in the months leading up to the festival.  As in past years, March is when things truly start to heat up.

The March volunteer meeting was attended by nearly 20 individuals
The March volunteer meeting was attended by nearly 20 individuals

A variety of things are happening with the festival planning.  Some general highlights include:

  • We have finalized our contract for this year’s billboards.  We will not only have 1 billboard in the Town of Spencer, but we will also have one at the Cloverdale exit along I-70!
  • We reviewed current vendor and sponsor sign-ups and encouraged volunteers to focus heavily on soliciting last year’s participants (since they are typically an easier group to firm up).   We have 43 vendors signed up so far for the 2017 festival.   As a part of this conversation, we discussed talking points for soliciting prior participants as well as new organizations and businesses.
  • All Town and County-related approvals have been granted.  We still need to work to secure our entertainment permit from the State Fire Marshall.
  • We have finalized the design of our new mascot.  It is a raccoon and will be named as a part of some type of activity at this year’s festival.  Our mascot will remain gender-neutral and prefers to go by the pronouns “they,” “them,”, and “their.”

In addition, there are three work streams focused on specific aspects of the festival.  Those teams include Activities, Marketplace, & Welcoming.  Each team has a volunteer lead that assists in coordinating the efforts of that particular group.  Key items of discussion during Sunday’s team meetings are noted below.

The Activities committee has a LOT on their plate this year and has hit the ground running.
The Activities committee has a LOT on their plate this year and has hit the ground running.

ACTIVITIES

  • The team agreed upon some rental items that they would like to see back again this year, such as the Dunk Tank & Slip-n-Slide.  They will continue to review options and will keep in mind the need to have things for people of all ages.
  • There was discussion about having other engaging activities as well, such as having wandering carnival-type entertainers and such.
  • The team discussed the Prism All-Ages Activity Zone and will be reaching out to Prism to coordinate.
  • The team is planning the Pet Pride Parade to take place at 12:30.  Prizes need to be determined as well as the parade general theme.
  • The team began discussing raffles, but this will be a larger topic next month.
  • A variety of entertainers have been confirmed already, including Quarryland, Different Drummers, Sarah Jayne, Adam Riviere, Kali Bently, & Zumba with Nancy Emerson.  Others have expressed an interest but we are still working to confirm.
  • The team discussed entertainment logistics (sound, etc.) and will continue to iron out the details.
  • Vicci Laine will coordinate the drag show again this year, as she has in years past.
The Marketplace committee got right to business at the March volunteer meeting
The Marketplace committee got right to business at the March volunteer meeting

MARKETPLACE

  • The team discussed ideas for improving vendor setup communication
  • The team discussed the challenges of assigning booth locations
  • The team agreed on key timelines for communication with vendors
  • At next month’s meeting, this team will focus heavily on the draft of the vendor setup communication (which will go out in Mid-May) and on developing a draft of the booth assignments (utilizing the same basic layout as 2016)
The Welcoming committee meets during our March volunteer meeting.
The Welcoming committee meets during our March volunteer meeting.

WELCOMING

  • The team discussed how to best distinguish the Welcome Booth from all other booths, to draw more attention to it
  • The team discussed how to improve the handling of money related to raffle sales, to make it safer and easier for those selling tickets
  • The team will reach out to a fellow volunteer who may be able to help design this year’s program.
  • The team will reach out to a local printer to determine if we want to print our fliers there
  • The team discussed plans for the Vendor Reception Area
  • At next month’s meeting, this team will focus on the design of the programs and fliers

Everyone is always welcome to help us plan our event.  It takes a lot of work to make our fabulous event possible and every volunteer truly makes a big difference.  For those individuals who are interested in volunteering in some way to assist our work, please reach out to us at info@SpencerPride.org and we will put you in touch with Judi Epp, our volunteer coordinator.

We had a great turnout at the March volunteer meeting

2017 Festival Theme Announced

We are excited to announce that this year’s Spencer Pride Festival theme will be “We The People.”

This theme was selected after soliciting our volunteers & the general public for ideas.  As always, we were looking for creative, family-friendly themes for our event.  After receiving approximately 10 suggestions, our volunteers combed through them at our February monthly meeting.  We discussed the pros & cons of each idea.  Ultimately, the volunteers decided to narrow the list down to two themes & then let the Spencer Pride Board of Directors make the final choice.

The top two themes sent for consideration to the Board were “We The People” & “Unity in Diversity.”  Both were great ideas & the Board was somewhat dividing initially.  Ultimately, “We The People” seemed the most appropriate theme for this year’s event.

The 2017 Spencer Pride Festival takes place on Saturday, June 3 from 10 AM – 5 PM on the downtown square of the Owen County Courthouse in Spencer.

If you’d like to join us in planning for this year’s festival, please let us know.  You can e-mail us at info@SpencerPride.org so that we can add you to our e-mail distribution list.  We meet on the first Sunday of every month at the Spencer Pride commUnity center from 4 – 6 PM.   This month’s meeting will take place this Sunday, March 5.

We the PEOPLE

Spencer Pride Featured on RTV6 (The Indy Channel)

On February 27, after the first night of the LGBTQ+ miniseries “When We Rise,”  Indianapolis television station RTV6 featured Spencer Pride in a segment that highlights our work in helping to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.   Paris Lewbell, an investigative reporter from RTV6 (also called “The Indy Channel”) selected Spencer Pride for this opportunity after learning how Spencer Pride has ‘become an emerging leader in LGBT equality in Indiana.”

We were thrilled to get this attention from one of the largest television stations in Indiana.

You can see the promotion for the segment here:  RTV6 Promo 2017 02 27

To see the full segment, which includes an interview with Spencer Pride’s president Jonathan Balash, please visit the link below.   In addition to Jonathan, several other volunteers are shown in the segment.

http://www.theindychannel.com/news/call-6-investigators/spencer-indiana-is-turning-the-table-on-small-town-stereotypes-and-looking-towards-the-future

RTV_Indy 2012

2017 Scholarship Applications Now Being Accepted

2017 Scholarship Applications are due March 4!
2017 Scholarship Applications are due March 4!

We are now accepting applications for the 2nd annual Spencer Pride/White River Valley PFLAG scholarship!

This scholarship is intended for high school seniors who are pursuing post-secondary education.   Individuals who have worked to move LGBTQ+ equality forward in their school, community, or faith organization are encouraged to apply.

For more information & to apply online, please visit www.Spencerpride.org/scholarship.

It’s official: Spencer Pride is a 2017 “Champion of Diversity”

Champions of DiversityOn Friday evening, Spencer Pride was honored in Indianapolis as a 2017 “Champion of Diversity.”  Spencer Pride was among several organizations & individuals who received recognition at the 12th annual Champions of Diversity awards banquet.  The event is coordinated by Indiana Minority Business Magazine & the Indianapolis Recorder.  The banquet took place at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Indianapolis.  Hundreds of people were present for the evening’s festivities, which included the dinner, awards ceremony, & an after-party.   Although there was fear of an icy, wintry mix coming into the region that evening, thankfully the weather held out so that attendees could safely travel to and from the event.

RTV6’s news anchor Rafael Sanchez presented the award to Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride’s president.

“It was such an honor to be able to accept the award on behalf of our Spencer Pride volunteers,” said Balash.  “To hear someone speak about our work from that stage, in that forum, was a wonderful feeling.”

In addition to Jonathan, a variety of other Spencer Pride volunteers were also in attendance at the event, including Jacob Balash, director Cathy Wyatt & her husband Dan Wyatt, director Dylan Heaslet, director Eric Jones, & Lacey Newton.

The award is proudly on display at the Spencer Pride commUnity center.

AwardVolunteers at COD event

Downtown Revitalization Grant to Benefit Spencer Pride commUnity center

This week, it was announced that the Town of Spencer would be receiving a Main Street Revitalization Program grant through the federal Community Development Block Grant Program.  This grant awards $500,000 for downtown streetscape improvements on parts of Main Street & Market Street.   The grant money will be combined with a local match of $598,000 in order to fund the expected total cost of the project, which is estimated to be $1.1 million.

According to a press release issued by the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs, the money awarded to the Town of Spencer “will replace concrete sidewalks and curbs, install decorative lighting, place metal benches and metal trash receptacles as well as plant trees with tree grates. This project contributes to community development by beautifying the downtown through new sidewalks and improved lighting.”

Spencer Pride is excited to see this improvements, especially those that will have a direct impact on the commUnity center at 46 E. Market Street.

spencer-main-street
Spencer Main Street advocated for this grant on behalf of the Town of Spencer

Spencer Main Street played a pivotal role in acquiring this grant.  Volunteers of Spencer Pride, including Unity retail manager Jacob Balash, are also involved with the Spencer Main Street Association.

“I’m excited that Spencer was chosen to receive this wonderful grant to help revitialize our downtown,” said Balash.  “It will help bring in new business & rekindle life in our gem of a town.  I think this is one more step in the right direction to help highlight the marvelous assets that Spencer has.”

Spencer Pride treasurer Judith Epp expressed gratitude to the Town of Spencer, Spencer Main Street, & the State of Indiana for supporting the downtown improvements.

“This is just so wonderful” exclaimed Epp.  “We are so thankful to all those who worked to make this possible.  The street lighting, gathering spaces, and safe, new sidewalks will make a great addition to Spencer & will enhance the appeal of the Spencer Pride commUnity center.””

The downtown work is expected to take place in 2017, likely lasting 3-5 months.  It is possible that this work will be underway during the Spencer Pride Festival on June 4.

The Spencer Pride commUnity center will see significant improvements out front once the work is completed in 2017.
The Spencer Pride commUnity center will see significant improvements out front once the work is completed in 2017.

You can find additional information about the grant announcement & images of possible improvements at the Spencer Evening World website.  http://www.spencereveningworld.com/news/2016-12-05/Front_Page/Town_of_Spencer_awarded_500k_grant.html (subscription required)

You can see the press release from the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs at:
http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?view=EventDetails&eventidn=254688&information_id=253224&type=&syndicate=syndicate

“Champion of Diversity” Recognition

meeting-at-unitySpencer Pride, Inc., is excited to announce that we’ve been chosen as a 2017 Champion of Diversity honoree by Indiana Minority Business Magazine. The award letter explains, “Spencer Pride has been selected because your collective efforts have set the example on how to reflect inclusion in the community.”  The letter further details, “Your diligent work to advocate for the LGBTQ community and create real change that focuses on creating atmospheres that embody safety and equality for those who are underrepresented exemplifies the qualities that we look for in a champion.”

Dana Beth Evans, a Spencer Pride Director, said, “As a member of Spencer Pride, I am extremely proud of this organization. These are some of the nicest, most organized people with whom I have been associated. They give and educate and are truly caring individuals. It is certainly an honor to be associated with this group and to have such a prestigious award bestowed on us.”

For more than a decade, Indiana Minority Business Minority Magazine has recognized individuals, organizations, and institutions that have shown tremendous efforts in the area of diversity and inclusion.

“The success of the Spencer Pride Festival, where vendors and entertainers display their support for the community around the Owen County Courthouse grounds by hosting booths of information and activism; the numerous ways in which we help educate the public about LGBTQ issues; and the community service work we do make me so PROUD to be on the Board of Directors with Spencer Pride,” said Rex Hinkle, Director.

Spencer Pride, Inc., has been working for the last 10 years to make Indiana a more inclusive place for all people.  We are very honored to be recognized for this work.