Generous Donation from Local Glass Artists Adorn commUnity center Entrance

On Sunday, a beautiful piece of stained glass art was hung in the transom over the main entrance to the Spencer Pride commUnity center, thanks to a generous donation from Bill Adams & Dave Rosen who operate under the business name Brightstar Glass.  The pair, who have been together since 2003, have nearly 8 decades of combined experience working with stained glass.

Bill & Dave first approached Spencer Pride commUnity center Director Jacob Balash in late 2018 about the potential for a custom-made piece of art for the center.  Over the next several months, Dave & Bill crafted a design & ultimately created the piece in their home studio.  Some of the glass utilized in the piece is no longer made, making the transom a truly one-of-a-kind piece.  The commUnity center’s building number, 17, is prominently displayed at the center of the piece, with a spray of pride colors fanning out from it.

From start-to-finish, this large piece took “hundreds of hours” of artistic design, engineering, & fabrication.

“We are a married gay couple who honor what the Spencer Pride commUnity center stands for and what it provides for the extended community,” said Dave, when asked why they made the donation to Spencer Pride.  “The stained glass art donation is a visible way to increase our personal support and encourage others to support the center’s work.”

Jacob Balash is elated about the addition to the commUnity center’s entrance, which has seen dramatic transformation this year with the installation of all new doors (locally made by Two Avocados Designs) & windows, as well as a proper stage for the feature display window.

“This piece is absolutely beautiful,” Jacob proudly exclaimed.  “During the day, it glows beautifully from within the center.  At night, it creates a splash of color & character on the outside of the building.  We are so grateful for Bill & Dave’s generosity.”

Brightstar Glass products are available for sale at the commUnity center’s retail shop, Unity.  There are a variety of glass products, including bowls, stained glass yard & window art, ornaments, & magnets.  There are a few special stained glass window panels available for a limited time that utilize the leftover glass from the Spencer Pride transom.

The glass art is estimated to be worth $5,000.  To see the glass art in person, visitors are encouraged to stop by the center during normal operating hours Wednesday through Saturday, from 10 AM until 7 PM.

Spencer Pride is a 100% volunteer-powered organization with a mission to make Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.  For more information about the organization, please visit


Camden’s Carnival & commUnity center Host Expanded Activities for 2019 Festival

There are plenty of activities planned for this year’s Spencer Pride Festival on June 1, in addition to the previously announced lineup of entertainment at two venues. The main activities will be occurring in Camden’s Carnival (Spencer Pride’s family fun area located in Market Street) & the Spencer Pride commUnity center.

When it comes to all-ages fun, nothing will satisfy attendees more than Camden’s Carnival. While Spencer Pride has always had plenty of things to do, the carnival has greatly expanded over the past two years & will continue to do so again this year. In the center of the carnival area Bloomington Aerology will be showing off their aerial silk talents & offering free lessons. Adjacent to this will be several booths which will include carnival games (sponsored by Insurance Pros, LLC). Face painting will be provided by The Painted Lady. Iris Youth Group, PFLAG, & other Youth-oriented organizations will be located in this area as well.

To the west of the carnival games will be the large inflatables. This year the festival will have a rock wall, deluxe slip-n-slide, & bungee run, each one for all-ages. For those 12 & under there will be a bounce house. For the first time, the festival will feature a Touch-a-Truck area, which will include a semi, two law enforcement vehicles, & a fire truck. Weather-permitting, there will be vintage Model A cars & VW beetles.

Adjacent to the carnival, the Pet Pride Parade presented by Elanco will kick off at 3:30 PM. There is no fee to participate in this event & no advanced registration is required. Happy pets of all types who are leashed to a responsible human companion are welcome to participate. Judges will evaluate the pets based on personality, costume, & behavior.

At the Spencer Pride commUnity center, the Choose-Your-Own Raffles will once again fill the meeting room. Thousands of dollars of items are available during the raffles, which will be drawn throughout the day. Tickets are $1 each or 6/$5. Raffle items include jewelry, a speaker system, golf club bag, autographed sports memorabilia, overnight getaways at locations such as French Lick Resort, & much more.

Tickets for a 50/50 drawing will be sold all day. The winner will be selected at 7 pm. Tickets are $5 each or 5/$20. Last year, hundreds of dollars were awarded to the festival’s 50/50 winners.

Drag Queen Storytime, which was a new & wildly popular addition in 2018, is back again this year. It will take place at 4 pm in the Gathering Place of the commUnity center.

“With our expansion of the carnival & doubling of live entertainment this year we expect attendance to increase in those areas,” said Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride President & the organization’s festival lead.

“Emily Carroll, our Activities Committee Lead, has done an astounding job this year making the festival even more special than it has been in the past. Her devotion to our work is inspiring.”

For more information about the festival, please visit

Subtracting the Addition


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 Downtown Businesses Increase Support for 2018 Festival

One sign of the progress that Spencer Pride is making in the local community is certainly the number of downtown businesses who have chosen to participate in the festival marketplace.    When we first began our festival, that number was zero.  Over the years, it has steadily increased.  This year, we more than doubled the number of downtown supporters!

Each year, businesses are solicited to participate in our festival marketplace.  Businesses with a home in downtown Spencer, however, generally aren’t interested in having a booth on the courthouse lawn since they already have their business nearby.  Instead, we approach those businesses with a different offer for participation:  for just $25, we will list them on our festival map so that everyone knows that they are supporters of the festival.  This helps encourage the thousands of festival attendees to visit these locations.  In addition to recognition on the festival map, this year these businesses were also able to get brand-new decals for their shop windows to proudly advertise their support of Spencer Pride.

In 2017, 7 downtown businesses participated in the festival.  This year the number jumped to a whopping 17!  This is due to both the increasing appreciation of our event as well as the revitalization of the Spencer downtown.  The complete list of downtown participants in the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival is listed below.

We really appreciate the support of all of these businesses & strongly encourage festival attendees to visit everyone on the list frequently!


All About You Salon

Brown & Associates

Casida Barber Shop

Civilian Brewing Corp.

Dragonfly Gallery (also a sponsor & donor to our raffle!)

Historic Tivoli Theatre (also a sponsor & donor to our raffle!)

Jit’s Thai Bistro

Owen County Community Foundation

Owen County Chamber of Commerce

Owen Valley Winery Tasting Room

Playhouse Toys & Games

Presto Printing

Spencer Pride commUnity center

Sweet Oven Visitors Center

Unique Hair Designs

Watts Law Office (also a sponsor!)

West & Co. Realty

Official 2018 Shirts On Sale

“Remember the Past, Create the Future” is the official theme of the 2018 Spencer Pride Festival.  For our t-shirt design this year, we went a step further.  It’s not enough to simply talk the talk, but to walk the walk.  As a result we appended “Start Now” to the theme & plastered it on the front of the shirt.  On the back, to continue with the action-oriented approach, the design reads “I am working to make Indiana a more welcoming place for ALL people.”

This year’s shirt is primarily available in a black v-neck as well as a purple crew neck, in sizes small through 4XL.  Some other colors & styles are available in very limited quantities.

The shirts are available for sale now at the Spencer Pride commUnity center for $19.99 each or 2 for $29.99.  We expect the shirts to be wildly popular at the festival on June 2.

Spencer Pride commUnity center Celebrates Grand Opening in Historic I.O.R.M. Building

The Unity Shop is the retail space with the commUnity center. It features items made by local artists. There is also a wide variety of vintage resale items for sale.

Spencer Pride president Jonathan Balash and the volunteers of Spencer Pride, Inc., are proud to announce the opening of their new commUnity center, now located at 17 E. Franklin Street in Spencer.  The center is located in the historic Improved Order of the Red Men (IORM) Lodge Building, which was originally constructed in 1898.

“We were elated to have been able to purchase such a prominent downtown building”, said Balash.  “We now have more than 9,000 square feet of space to mold into our biggest dreams for our organization.”

A group of volunteers pose for a quick photo during the moving day on January 28, 2018

“A majority of the demolition and relocation of the retail space was accomplished by our wonderful volunteers,” said Judi Epp, Spencer Pride’s Treasurer.

During 2017, Spencer Pride volunteers logged 6,531 hours throughout the various programs run by the organization, including the commUnity center.  In January of 2018, volunteers donated 1,114 hours, primarily involving their work on the new building.    Volunteers worked to preserve the historic features of the building, while making necessary changes to transform the building into a functioning space for the community.  Volunteer work days were scheduled throughout the last couple of months of 2017. The final moving date from the former location Market Street took place on January 28th, 2018.

Numerous local contractors were also engaged in the work at the new facility.  This was coordinated by Spencer Pride Director & Retail Manager, Jacob Balash.   Work will continue on other areas of the building.  Phase I, which mostly included the transition of existing operations, is now complete.

More Spencer Pride volunteers pose for a photo during the January 28 moving day.

In addition to the onsite work at the facility, the Spencer Pride Board of Directors has been working with Springpoint Architects out of Bloomington, Indiana, to conduct a feasibility study on the structure.  This study will be used to guide the organization in developing the building.  The feasibility study is expected to conclude within the next two weeks.

Phase II, which includes restorative exterior work on the building façade including replacement of all windows & doors,  will be completed during 2018.  A new interior stairwell will also be included within the rear of the center.  During demolition work at the site, a historic stairwell was uncovered.  In order to meet new code requirements, architects aided in designing a new staircase for the space.

Phase III, which includes the restoration of the 2nd story & the development of 3 apartments above the retail and meeting space is slated for 2019. There are 5 phases in total planned for the Spencer Pride commUnity center project.

The commUnity center is now formally finished with Phase I, although many details throughout the space are still being finalized.

The new building solidifies the presence of Spencer Pride in the community.  The organization has been active in Owen County since its establishment more than a decade ago.  Over the course of that time, the organization has evolved in many ways.  The opening of the commUnity center was a major milestone when it originally opened in September of 2016 in a rented space on the south side of the courthouse square.  After their volunteer base doubled and support for the retail store was apparent, plans were assembled to purchase a building downtown that would better serve the organization’s long-term needs.

Volunteers stopped for a moment during the moving day on January 28, 2018.

The new space will be utilized for multiple purposes.  It includes an expanded retail space.  Unity, the retail shop of Spencer Pride, will continue to feature unique items created by local artisans as well as an assortment of vintage resale merchandise.  The center now also includes an informal Gathering Place for community members to come to relax, read a book, work on projects, and more.  The new location also has a meeting room that is now available for free to other local not-for-profit, LGBTQ+ affirming organizations.  Amenities such as two ADA-compliant public restrooms with changing tables are also now available to the public, as well as free Wi-Fi.  Eventually additional services will be offered as the center evolves.

Spencer Pride organizers thank the many individuals who volunteered to make this dream a reality as well as the individuals and organizations who have made donations to help the project.  Spencer Pride has established a foundation and a capital campaign at the Owen County Community Foundation where the funds are being managed.

For more information about Spencer Pride visit or stop in to the commUnity center Wednesday through Saturday from 10 AM until 7 PM.  Jonathan Balash can be reached via e-mail at


Progress Update on New commUnity center

Volunteers work to remove the sub-flooring in the future Unity space during a Work Day in January 2018

The amount of work undertaken in the past 2 months to transform our new facility into the new home for our commUnity center cannot be overstated.  Masonry, electrical, framing, plumbing, flooring, lighting, painting, demolition, & cleaning have all been utilized in order to prepare the space for our upcoming move.  Countless individuals have been involved in the project including volunteers as well as paid local contractors.

Pictured here are a few photos from throughout the past 60 days.  You’ll see various stages of our work as well as many of the people who have been involved.  Future updates will include additional photos.

Volunteers work on removal of plaster in the future Gathering Place during December 2017.
Volunteers pose for a quick break during a Work Day on Martin Luther King Junior Day

As previously communicated, the short-term plan (phase 1) is to move all of our existing operations from our rented facility at 46 E. Market Street to our newly purchased building at 17 E. Franklin Street.  This move will encompass transition of Unity (our retail store), Safe Place services, & all other elements of our current commUnity center by the end of January.  Once this transition is complete, the new facility will boast everything we currently offer & much more.  Newly added amenities at the new facility will be two ADA-compliant restrooms, an informal Gathering Place, & meeting room.

Volunteers are at the new facility daily in preparation for the completion of this phase.  Most weekends consists of 1 or more workdays where up to a dozen volunteers are assisting in the many things that need to be done.

Long-term plans include complete restoration of the exterior & renovation of the 2nd floor.  Once complete, the 2nd floor will contain 3 rental units intended for elder & other members of the LGBTQ+ community.  It will also have office space that will be utilized to offer a variety of new or low-cost services for the community.  As plans are developed further they will be communicated to the public.

If you are interested in helping out in January with this effort, please contact Marissa Mallo, our volunteer coordinator.  You can reach Marissa via e-mail at

Members of a local fraternity came out to help on MLK day
Volunteers from Prism Youth Community came out to help in December
Truman, one of our prized volunteers, was eager to help out with the floors.

commUnity center Update for #GivingTuesday

This post was written by Jonathan Balash, Spencer Pride’s president.  Jonathan can be reached at 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 (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  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

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 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

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!


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 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. (subscription required)

You can see the press release from the Indiana Office of Community & Rural Affairs at:

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 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.