Memphis LGBT center struggling

Posted on 02 May 2011 at 10:44am

From staff and wire reports

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A nonprofit center that has provided services to gays and lesbians in Memphis for 22 years is facing possible closure.

Like other nonprofits struggling in the weak economy, the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center is seeing fewer donations and grant opportunities. It already has cut back its $125,000 budget.

Board chairwoman Christy Tweddle told The Memphis Daily News that even laying off the executive director would not save enough money to keep the center open for long.

The center was founded in 1989 by a group of citizens who wanted to make Memphis safer for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community members. They also hoped to foster an environment of acceptance and equality.

The center offers several programs including free HIV testing and sexual health counseling, referrals, education and community outreach.

Although the center is partially funded by grants, much of that money is restricted to use on specific programs, Tweddle said.

“We rely on community and individual donations to do things like pay the executive director and the basic bills, and to basically keep the center open,” she said.

Tennessee Equality Project board chairman Jonathan Cole, who is a former board member at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, said the nonprofit’s youth programs are at the heart of its work.

Cole said he knows a young man who was thrown out of his home by a parent due to his sexual orientation and was rejected by several shelters.

The center can provide temporary food, shelter and clothing for youth with no place to go, he said.

“Sadly, because many in our community don’t really understand GLBT kids and turn them out into the world, they’re often left quite vulnerable at an age where, without some social support from adults, they’re not going to succeed in life,” Cole said. “You may not access these services yourself, but there are people in this community who desperately need it. It will be a travesty for the center to close for lack of funding.”

A fundraising drive seeks to raise $45,000 by the end of May.

For more on the center or to make a donation, go here.

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