2019: A “Big Time” Year

by Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride President

Spencer Pride Supporters:

Now that we’ve officially started 2020, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon the past year.   With your help, Spencer Pride has accomplished amazing things & continues to march constructively forward focusing on our mission!  We have spent the majority of the last 12 months moving our mission forward in a variety of ways, from expansion of our key programs to the continuing cultivation of our passionate volunteers & volunteer-leaders.

Here are our major milestones from 2019 (from my perspective):

  • We raised awareness to bias-related crimes against the LGBTQ+ community, using our own real-life example that happened here in Owen County.  Although this particular case was minor in the grand scheme of things, it gave us a platform to talk about this important issue.  We also took ownership of the “Big Time Queer” phrase & have used it as our mantra this year.
  • We hosted the Midwest Pride Conference, which brought more than 80 representatives from 15 LGBTQ+ pride organizations from 6 Midwestern states.  Conference attendees spent 3 days learning, sharing, & networking with colleagues from as close as Greencastle to as far as Minneapolis.  This event put Spencer ‘on the map’ for the LGTBQ+ pride community in the Midwest & garnished a lot of very positive feedback about our organization & our community as a whole.
  • We coordinated our first-ever Iris Prom, which welcomed more than 60 youth from 6 local communities to celebrate living authentically. Teens from Iris were also responsible for the establishment of the long-awaited Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at Owen Valley High School.   We distributed $1,500 in youth awards this year to our Iris teens.

    Photo by Casey Shively
  • Our commUnity center received a new entry, exterior paint job, & several new windows.  We have also been able to make substantial improvements to the inside as well: upgraded meeting room furniture, improved informational display wall in the Gathering Place, & a stage for our main display window in our retail space.  We have also organized a lot of supplies & inventory this year.
  • We held our biggest-ever Spencer Pride Festival, with more than 4,500 people in attendance.  It was the culminating event of our inaugural “Pride Week,” which included two educational events in addition to the festival itself.  Our festival saw a huge increase in attendance over 2018, much of which was due to increased participation of youth & families.
  • We participated in the NYC Pride March to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which were a pivotal turning point for the LGBTQ+ equality movement in the United States in the 20th century.
  • We brought a piece of the Memorial AIDS Quilt to Owen County for the first time & hosted our first-ever World AIDS Day Service to bring increased awareness to the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.
  • We collaborated with hundreds of local citizens, business, & stakeholders to defend Spencer’s downtown events.  We helped establish the Spencer Downtown Event Coalition.  Although the Owen County Commissioners were ultimately able to push their ordinance through (which was designed to stifle our Pride festival), the issue provided us with a tremendous amount of free publicity & gave us the opportunity to think creatively for our 2020 event.   It is certainly going to be our biggest & boldest, & I’m confident it’ll be the best one, too.

    Spencer Pride in the 2020 NYC Pride March as a part of WorldPride.
  • We launched a public awareness campaign in Owen County, with two billboards currently in place advertising our commUnity center & outreach efforts.  The purpose of this campaign is to further educate  local citizens about what we do to improve our community.  While we have strong local support, we know there are many more people we can pull in if we can reach them & share our story.  A third billboard will be in place in a couple of months, ensuring that we have a minimum of two on display at any given time over the next 6 months.
  • We welcomed many new volunteers & volunteer-leaders, including 4 new Directors.  Speaking of the Board, we conducted a major re-organization which sets us up to have strong leaders focused on all of our programs, functions, & resources.  Let’s not forget the changes among our officers as well, which resulted in the election of our first-ever Vice President, Katie Zuber (Katie@SpencerPride.org).

Can you tell we have been busy?!  It’s nearly mind-boggling!  While that list includes a LOT of major activities, it’s not comprehensive.  In fact, we’ve done much more than I have time to share with you today.

 Here are 10 things you can do to help us start off 2020 with a bang!

  • We are now in full swing preparing for our 2020 festival.   Given the increased publicity around the 2020 Spencer Pride Festival, we expect a huge increase in attendance & need to be prepared to welcome these newcomers to our event.   We need to get vendors registered.  We also need festival sponsors to help cover the costs of our event, especially given the expected increase in expenses for 2020.  The new ordinance & our ‘adjustments’ are estimated to cost us an addition $4,000-$6,000.
    • Let Kate (Kate@SpencerPride.org) know if you have any ideas/contact information for new vendors.
    • Reach out to me (Jonathan@SpencerPride.org, 812-821-3073) if you can help us get in contact with potential sponsors.
    • Attend our monthly volunteer meetings on the first Sunday of each month to help us with our festival planning.   The next one is on February 2nd at 4 PM.
  • We are improving our social media presence.  We have current accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, & YouTube.
    • Contact Janet (Janet@SpencerPride.org) if you can help by taking shared ownership of one or more of our social media accounts.  
    • Attend our upcoming “Spencer Pride, Social Media, & YOU” training on Wednesday, January 8 at 6 PM in the commUnity center.  You’ll learn how to become a more powerful online advocate for Spencer Pride (& plenty of skills transferable to other organizations as well).  We are also raffling off 2 balcony tickets for the Melissa Etheridge performance in March at the Brown County Music Center.
    • If you haven’t already done so, encourage your friends to “like” or “follow” our social media accounts.  EVERY SINGLE TIME people do this, we get additional followers.  Can you be the reason we get new followers today?
  • We are working to add Sundays as regular operating hours for our center, but we can only do this if a couple more volunteers step forward to take on a regular Sunday shift.  Adding Sundays was very successful in December, greatly increasing visitors to the center (as well as adding to our revenue).  Wouldn’t it be great to know that our center is open 5 DAYS PER WEEK?
  • We are seeking financial support to install the final two roofs in our commUnity center this Spring.
  • We just launched a new issue of our Volunteer Quarterly newsletter.
    • If you’d like to contribute to the next newsletter with photos or an article, contact our new editor Casey (Casey@SpencerPride.org) by March 31, 2020.
  • We are always growing our volunteer base.  The most powerful way to solicit new volunteers is by current volunteers sharing their own experiences with Spencer Pride.

Most importantly, I know that we have made a difference in many lives over the past year.

Thank you for everything that you did to support Spencer Pride in 2019.  Your time, talent, & financial support have fueled our accomplishments.   We are stronger because of you.   

As a 501(C)3 not-for-profit, all-volunteer organization, we continue to rely on your support to maintain our momentum.  I’m excited about what 2020 will bring & I’m confident that it’ll be another “Big Time” year!

From my family to yours, we hope 2020 bring you much happiness.

Jonathan's Signature