“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.

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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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