commUnity center Update for #GivingTuesday

This post was written by Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride’s president.  Jonathan can be reached at Jonathan@SpencerPride.org and 812-821-3073.

Close your eyes.

Imagine a small, rural community with a thriving LGBTQ+ community center operating out of a building originally constructed less than 20 years after the end of the Civil War.

Imagine the center regularly filled with people from all walks of life, utilizing the facility in many different ways: Members of the LGBTQ+ community & others are engaging with an all-volunteer staff to access important support services.  Individuals & small groups are taking advantage of public computers & free Wi-Fi in a comfortable, informal gathering place.  Local, LGBTQ+ affirming not-for-profits are regularly utilizing free meeting space to do their important work.  Patrons are shopping at a store which sells items made only by local artists & craftspeople.  Upstairs, members of the aging LGBTQ+ community are utilizing affordable housing with a spectacular view of a revitalized downtown district.  Throughout the facility, everyone feels safe, welcomed, & supported. 

Imagine these things & much more. 

Now open your eyes.

Front of Building November 2017

Here we are.  We are Spencer Pride in rural Spencer, Indiana.  Population 2,214.   We are restoring & improving the historic I.O.R.M. building located in the heart of our downtown.  Visit the building & you’ll find us working to create a full-fledged LGBTQ center that will allow that vision to come to fruition.

We have been working in our community for the past 11 years & have established a reputation of professionalism, service, & a commitment to the betterment of our community.  For the past year we have been operating a successful LGBTQ+ center in a small, rented space on the courthouse square, across the way from our newly purchased building. We’ve shown our capability to thrive in our community, all while working towards our mission of making Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.

As we approach the end of 2017, I am proud to be able to share with you a taste of what we are doing in the new building to prepare it for its future use.  Many of you have been asking for this information.  Countless others still don’t know that we have even begun this journey.  Regardless of which group you fit in, hopefully you will find this update informative.  If it also inspires you to open up your checkbook & make a financial contribution to our efforts, we would welcome that (more details below)!

Before and After October 2017

Over the past 30 days we selected (after seeking multiple bids) a local architecture firm who is completing a feasibility study of our building.  This study will establish the ‘current state’ of the building & highlight areas for improvement.  The study will also develop a preliminary site master plan on the future utilization of the entire building, based upon our communicated programming needs.    Springpoint Architects will be finished with the feasibility study in Q1 of 2018.  They are a firm experienced in historical restoration.   We received a $2,500 grant from Indiana Landmarks to assist with the cost of the feasibility study.

Phase 1, transition of existing operations, to be completed by January 31st, 2018:

  • This phase includes:
    • Relocation of Unity, our retail store & designated Safe Place ™ location
    • Relocation of our meeting space for volunteers, the board, & Iris (our youth group)
    • Establishment of Meeting Room space on the 1st floor
  • This work will include (at minimum):

Phase 1 as of 28NOV17

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Phase 2, to be completed by a date yet to be determined (awaiting completion of site master plan & necessary funding):

  • This phase includes:
    • Exterior Restoration & High Priority Improvements
    • Interior High Priority Improvements
  • This work will include (at minimum):

Phase 2 as of 28NOV17

 

 

 

 

 

Phase 3, to be completed by a date yet to be determined (awaiting completion of site master plan & necessary funding):

  • This phase includes:
    • 2nd Floor Interior Restoration & Improvements
  • This work will include (at minimum):

Phase 3 as of 28NOV17

 

 

 

 

Additional phases will be developed upon completion of the feasibility study & site master plan

What are the factors keeping us from making our vision a reality today?  Financing.   Our volunteers have the passion, energy, & dedication.  Our organization has both the imagination & the capability.

While we are a successful not-for-profit, our goal has never been to focus on revenue – but rather – our work.  Our existing revenue streams support our current work.  In order to ensure the continued fiscal strength of our organization, therefore, we cannot rely on our present funding to transform our new community center.  Instead, we will be seeking grants, individual contributions, & organizational partners.

Can you help on this #GivingTuesday?  Every dollar brings us closer to our goals.   With your support, we will create a facility where everyone can gather, learn, shop, support, & imagine, all while helping us accomplish our mission of making Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.   Spencer Pride is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization & your donations may be tax deductible.

To make a contribution, visit www.SpencerPride.org (just click the donate button on the top of the home page) or contact Judi Epp or I.  We can provide you a private tour of the facility & show you what we can accomplish together.  We can also talk about the benefits of becoming a sponsor, if you are interested in learning more about those opportunities.

We know what needs to be done & we WILL get it accomplished.  You can help make it happen sooner rather than later.

Imagine That. 

Jonathan Signature

 

 

 

 

 

The view from the roof of our building overlooking downtown Spencer
The view from the roof of our building overlooking downtown Spencer

Our New Building: How YOU Can Help Turn a Dream into Reality

Franklin Street Building and SkyWe’ve been getting a lot of questions from individuals & businesses about our plans for the historic building that we purchased on Franklin Street in Spencer.  We are grateful that so many people have taken an interest in our vision for the transformation of the building into the new Spencer Pride commUnity center.

A key element of our ability to realize our vision is financial support.  The initial building was financed through Owen County State Bank & through the assistance of an anonymous local citizen/supporter.  The total cost for the project will be much higher.  We are currently working to evaluate a local architect with whom we can begin to design the space in a thoughtful manner.

If you are interested in helping us achieve our vision, we encourage you to visit our website at www.SpencerPride.org/rainbow.  There you can find out more information about our ideas for the new center.  You’ll also be able to see the many packages available for individuals & businesses that are interested in sponsoring our project.  We can also customize benefits packages if the current options do not address your needs.

Our funds for the building transformation, which is part of our Rainbow Capital Campaign, are being managed by the Owen County Community Foundation.  Checks can be made out to Owen County Community Foundation with “Spencer Pride Building Fund” or “Spencer Pride Rainbow Capital Campaign” written on the notes line.  Checks can also be made out to Spencer Pride, Inc., with the same notations made.

Judi Epp, Spencer Pride’s treasurer, would love to speak with you about how you can help us make our dream for the space become a reality.  You can reach Judi at 317-345-4729 or via e-mail at Judi@SpencerPride.org.

Spencer Pride Purchases Historic Building to Expand Services

As the Spencer Pride organization prepared to celebrate the one-year anniversary of its well-received LGBTQ+ center, quietly behind the scenes the Board of Directors was working on a huge next step for the organization – ownership of their own building.

The Spencer Pride commUnity center is currently housed within a beautiful old building on the south side of the Owen County Courthouse. The organization rents from local owner Mike Sudol. Although the initial plan was to eventually consume the entire 3,000 square feet of space in the Sudol building, it did not take much time for Spencer Pride volunteers to realize that they’d need much more space to17 East Franklin truly meet their planned needs & to allow for room to ‘dream’ further.

“We never imagined one year ago how much of an impact having a community center would have. We’ve quadrupled our volunteer base in the last 12 months alone,” says Judi Epp, Spencer Pride’s treasurer & volunteer coordinator. “We now have the capacity to do more than we imagined we would be able to at this point.”

When the SPCC opened last September, the organization hoped to expand its hours of operation to 5 days a week over the next 5 years. After just 11 months in operation, the SPCC was already open 4 days a week.

Additionally, because of the sizable increase in volunteers, regular meetings at the center are consuming more space than was initially expected. The original plan for a smaller, multi-use space was for a smaller organization and no longer meets the needs of the not-for-profit.

On October 2, Spencer Pride Inc., closed a deal to purchase a much larger structure on the north side of the courthouse, just east of the Spencer Coffee Shop which is currently under construction. The acquisition is the first-ever property purchase that the organization has made.

The property is located at 17 East Franklin Street. It is a two-story facility that includes more than 9,000 square feet. The property has served a variety of different businesses over the past couple of decades, including Chaps Steakhouse and the Open Door Christian Fellowship. The building was originally constructed in the late 19th century. For many years, it served as the local lodge of the Improved Order of Red Men, a fraternal organization.

Spencer Pride has big plans for the new space, but first will work with a local architecture firm to develop the design. Ultimately the new Spencer Pride commUnity center will be a fully functioning LGBTQ+ center.

Unity, Spencer Pride’s retail shop, will find a welcome home in the new space that more than doubles its current footprint. This will enable a significant expansion of its already very diverse selection of goods from local artists and craftspeople. Unity’s ever-popular selection of retail will also be given more room on the shelves.

In addition to Unity, the center will contain a large meeting room & event hall, the latter of which was originally the building’s grand ballroom. This will allow for diverse use by the community and its many organizations and businesses. Plans for the space also include offering rental units for the aging LGBTQ+ community & more.

A solar roof and other features will ensure that the newly renovated structure will have a minimal environmental impact.

“We are excited to have achieved this milestone for Spencer Pride and the entire community. We look forward to all that the new center will be able to offer the people of Owen and surrounding counties,” said Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride’s President.

Balash explained that the timing of the transition from their current building to the new one is dependent upon many variables, including the financing of their vision for the Franklin Street property.

“Over the next few months we will be engaging with many entities in order to properly plan the space,” he said. “While we are all eager to get into the new facility, we want to do it right. This is a huge investment in our downtown.”

Balash noted that the complete development of their new center will likely take several years and would happen in several phases. As funds are identified, the speed of the building’s transformation will increase.

Cathy Wyatt, longtime volunteer and Director of Spencer Pride, is one of the members of the Rainbow Capital Campaign, the committee within Spencer Pride responsible for the identification and logistics of the property purchase. Wyatt and her husband Dan had been looking at the property for some time before bringing it to the attention of the Spencer Pride board of directors. Now, the committee is tasked with driving the development of the facility design.

“This was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” Wyatt confessed. “We are pleased that things were able to work out. The new building on Franklin Street will allow us to do what we’ve dreamed of doing for the past decade.”

Balash expressed gratitude to their current landlord, Mike Sudol, & his wife Denise.

“It was only because of their support that we had the initial opportunity to have a presence downtown on the square. We will forever be grateful for the role they played in helping us move the organization forward.”

For more information about Spencer Pride, visit www.SpencerPride.org or visit the current commUnity center at 46 East Market Street in Spencer.

“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

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

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

Spencer Coloring Book NOW AVAILABLE

The cover-not-for-printingSpencer Coloring Book is now available at the Spencer Pride commUnity center. This is a wonderful gift for all ages, featuring nearly 60 local sites drawn by local artists Primo Corona & Susan Shorter. The book is available for $9.99 or our special promotion Buy 5, Get 1 Free.

100% of the proceeds of this book go to support the mission of Spencer Pride, Inc.

Stop by the commUnity center on Fridays at Saturdays between 10 am and 7 pm to pick up one for everyone on your wish list!

community-center

commUnity center Grand Opening a Huge Success

unity-frontThis past weekend, the Spencer Pride commUnity center and its shop, Unity, officially opened it’s doors to the public.  The Grand Opening celebration was intentionally timed to coincide with the annual Apple Butter Festival in Spencer.

The official ribbon-cutting ceremony, coordinated by the Owen County Chamber of Commerce, took place at 9 AM on Saturday.  Although it had been raining all morning, the sky cleared in perfect time for the ceremony, which was very well attended by the public.  Most of the Spencer Pride Board of Directors was in attendance, as was many of our loyal volunteers.

The Owen County Chamber of Commerce presented Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash with a plaque to commemorate the event and to recognize the 10 years of service that Spencer Pride has provided to the community.

Immediately following the ribbon-cutting, excited attendees flooded into the center to explore the many fantastic items for sale and to learn about our new facility.  The CommUnity Center remained quite crowded throughout the entire day.  5-8 Spencer Pride volunteers were present at all times.  Thankfully, we have so many dedicated volunteers that most people were able to take shifts of 3-4 hours in length.

On Sunday the day started and finished rather slow, but this was not unexpected.  Based on our experiences at the Apple Butter Festival in the past, Sunday is typically a low traffic day.  That being said, we were quite busy mid-day.

Overall, we had nearly triple the number of attendees that we expected.  We also exceeded our sales expectations.   Individuals in attendance couldn’t stop complimenting our space and thanking us for what we have done for our community.

We are absolutely thrilled and grateful to our community for having embraced the opening of our commUnity center with such passion and excitement.

Downtown Diversity Expanding with Unity

commUnity center with signAnother shop is about to arrive on the square in downtown Spencer.   Unity is a distinctive retail store located within the Spencer Pride CommUnity Center at 46 E. Market Street, right across from the Owen County Courthouse & just a few buildings down from the newly relocated Sweet Owen Visitors Center.

The historic building that houses Unity, which is over 125 years old, serves as the perfect environment for the establishment.  The interior design of the space evokes a strong sense of the past, yet will appeal to the most modern of sensibilities.  Products are displayed in both century old displays as well as modern glass cabinets.

At Unity, visitors can expect to find unique gifts for friends & family – & for themselves, too! Merchandise is all high-quality & locally-produced.  Featured items include jewelry, art, stained glass, hand-made fashion accessories, pottery, & much more.  “Spotlights” – biographical signage that features the artist/craftsman involved with the items on display – are prominently posted in each display to help connect potential customers with the individuals that produced the products.

“We want everyone to know who is making the products, why & how the artist became involved in their craft, & why they’ve chosen to sell their products here,” said Jacob Balash, Unity’s retail manager & longtime Spencer Pride volunteer.

“It’s important that our customers understand the quality of the products & the significance of their purchase here at Unity,”

Although there will certainly be many consistent product themes at the store, the inventory will be constantly evolving. Many of the items for sale are one-of-a-kind or are available in very limited supply.  The unpredictability of the merchandise will keep Unity an exciting place to visit.  Even individuals who aren’t looking to make a purchase will still appreciate the fine craftsmanship of the products on display.

1Each purchase at Unity supports local artists & craftsmen. Profits all support the educational mission of Spencer Pride.

Balash is one of many volunteers who have spent a significant amount of time preparing Unity and the entire Spencer Pride CommUnity Center for its upcoming debut to the public. In fact, all of the work that Spencer Pride does is done entirely through volunteerism – Unity is no exception to that.

Debbie Messer, local resident and volunteer at Unity, is excited about her work with the organization. “I’m relatively new to the Spencer community and have found my forever family in Spencer Pride!” Messer said enthusiastically.  She has been a part of the committee focused on getting Unity up and running in time for the annual Apple Butter Festival in downtown Spencer.

Preparing a new store & center has not been easy, but volunteers are confident that their efforts are helping Spencer Pride achieve its mission. Spencer Pride, Inc., is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization focused on educating the public about the rural LGBTQI community in order to make Indiana a more welcoming place for all people.  The organization educates through direct engagement with the public.  Spencer Pride consists of more than 30 active volunteers who have a deep passion for community betterment. Many more volunteers assist with the various events and activities coordinated by the organization throughout the year.

Dana Beth Evans, Director of the Monroe County History Center, has also been heavily involved in crafting the operational strategy for the new store. .

“I can’t tell you how please I am to be a part of this organization,” she stated.

“What we are doing with Spencer Pride is making a real difference in this community and what we are about to do with Unity – well, that’s going to give us many more opportunities to make a further impact.”

Evans is on the Spencer Pride Board of Directors and served as the Director of the Tivoli Theatre from 2013 until 2015.

Greg Bukowski has also volunteered with Spencer Pride and has had a role in establishing Unity as well.

“What I love about this store and organization is that it’s so much more than the LGBT community. It’s about all communities and uniting them together in an exciting way.  That’s why we chose Unity as the name,” Bukowski said.

CommUnity Center Logo JPGThe Spencer Pride CommUnity Center & Unity shop Grand Opening Event will take place on Saturday, September 17th, from 9 AM until 6 PM & on Sunday, September 18th, from 9 AM until 3 PM.

Regular operating hours for the store (effective September 23rd) will be Fridays & Saturdays from 10 AM until 7 PM.

For more information about the work of Spencer Pride, please visit www.SpencerPride.org or check them out on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SpencerPrideInc.

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