Monday, March 12, 2012

Breaking Fast Monday

The following COP 24/7 Special item from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (3/8/12)  is a cautionary tale that is quietly happening throughout LGBTQ communities around the country. This item was brought to my attention from an inquiry to The National Association of Black and White Men Together's Board of Directors which I'm a member. A East Coast chapter member cited the plight of the organization and sought comment from directors on any assistance that the group could offer. Currently a discussion thread on the matter is being circulated with an formal opinion to be forwarded at a later date. However, what's more interesting about this situation is the fact that this forum has "talked out loud" about the interaction of the "gay community" and agencies seeking to offer services and or venues to accommodate those in need of them. Not to mention the intersections of public giving, collaborations, allies and securing stable funding streams that will allow agencies to sustain their operations.

The situation with YouthPride could easily be "any agency Little Rock" that has taken on the mission to offering any services to the LGBTQ community. Local rainbow agencies continuously struggle to attract committed board members who are not "social climbers" but realize the tremendous responsibility and determination it takes to be in that role. Its disheartening to notice that as I've sought to recruit individuals to join either a planning group, board of directors position, or anything requiring being responsibly engaged, plagued with exceptionally slim to none pickings. I can't tell you how many times I heard the proverbial "I'm really interested.." or the leading " I need to be apart of this or that..." and better yet the ultimate lie of, "let me know what you need and I'll be there." Let me be clear, I've tired of these excuses and the people who make these statements. At this point I have no use for them and its a pitiful situation when there seems to be so many within the local gay construct that have a penchant to be outright liars or making promises that they know damn well they can't keep.  I have rather busy schedule and really don't have time for such verbal diversions or folks caught up in some delusion of grandeur.  If you are going to step to me about my activities, please know that my attitude is based in the "come correct or get lost tone".

All agencies or organizations require "people power" to not buy into its vision and mission statement but are charged with providing the leadership, connections, cash flow and mojo that makes it all happen because in fact at its core such organizations are small businesses. An Executive Director or CEO can't do it all by themselves despite most of the times they find themselves wearing many hats. In case you didn't know, LGBTQ agencies are vital instruments and conduits that provide not only culturally sensitive options but focus on being competent to gay life complexities that often can't be found elsewhere. I've served as both a leader and board member on several local gay organizations and the experience was troubling to say the least. I discovered then and now that those whom inhabit these positions are seriously lacking the necessary skills or foresight to really do what's expected. Even though there are good intentions, such intentions as the following articles shows, doesn't pay the bills, raises no funds and impedes the mission of the organization. Even the good Christians of the Inman Park church wanted to be paid and didn't mind suing. After all its called "just business."

Mr. McPhaul takes the position that a series of elements have bedeviled YouthPride from the economy to the lack of financial support from the local gay community. In my opinion, McPhaul is grabbing at straws in an attempt to deflect the fact that their business model has flaws, dysfunctions and is in serious need of a capacity building session while they try to raise some fast cash. I've spent hours and hours of either listening or reading materials related to the workings of non-profits. Although its not exactly your favorite bed time stories, the information offers compelling case study, insights and updates on the volatile world of running a community base organization. If such agencies or organizations are to continue to exist, they will have to reinvent themselves into social entrepreneurs as well as discovering methods and strategies that will keep them "lean and mean" as they attempt to fulfill their missions.

In the meantime, this is another "realty check" to the GLBTQ community that if the talent within our own ranks don't step forward with there time, money and leadership, then there's a distinct possibility that services directly designed to address specific gay issues may just disappear without any protest. I urge readers of COP 24/7 to considered sharing your expertise, volunteer time, connections and Benjamin's with the community based organization of your choice. They need your help and would appreciate your support. Do it today!  

ATL Youth Services Provider In Peril of Closing

By Shelia M. Poole
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

YouthPride's troubles are mounting and the nonprofit could be evicted from its Inman Park home.
CEO Terence McPhaul said he is doing all he can to keep the YouthPride organization afloat. He blames the problems on the economy. CEO Terence McPhaul said he is doing all he can to keep the YouthPride organization afloat. He blames the problems on the economy. The financially-struggling organization, which provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teens and young adults, is facing a lawsuit for nonpayment of rent and mounting community pressure to make changes in the way it is managed. The ongoing problems could eventually force YouthPride to close.
CEO Terence McPhaul, however, said he is doing all he can to keep Youth Pride functioning. "We are still providing services," he said. "We haven't closed and there are no plans to. I'm making my own personal commitment that I want it to continue."

Inman Park United Methodist Church recently sued YouthPride in Fulton County Magistrate Court for nonpayment of rent on its Edgewood Avenue office, which is adjacent to the church. The lawsuit alleges that YouthPride has not paid full rent since June 2011 .
The lawsuit alleges that YouthPride owes the church more than $40,580 in rent and late charges through mid-February, when the complaint was filed, plus attorney fees.

McPhaul blamed the problems on the economy, several expected grants that didn't materialize and a hesitancy by some donors to support an organization that focuses on LGBT youth and a lack of strong financial support from the gay community. Most of its money comes from private donations and small federal and county grants.

YouthPride serve about 1,700 clients as a center for LGBT youth and young adults from ages 13 to 24. Services include counseling, support groups, a computer lab and a suicide prevention hot line.
Charlie Stadtlander, LGBT community activist and chairman of a community initiative to develop strategies to help LGBT youth, doesn't think Youth Pride's has much of a chance to survive.
He claimed YouthPride is in violation of its own bylaws by not having enough board members and not holding an official board meeting since December 2010 -- facts that McPhaul also acknowledges.
‘We who fund YouthPride, as such, have the right and a responsibility to make sure the organization continues to operate," Stadtlander said. "We have the responsibility to ask questions."

Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta, also views the nonprofit's future as bleak. " It would take a series of miracles -- not just one miracle -- for it to survive," he said. " What happens to these very vulnerable youth who have turned to YouthPride?"
McPhaul thinks such talk is a distraction.
"That's not to say that if something did happen, we definitely would want to have an alternative," McPhaul said. " But this is taking my attention away from doing what is necessary. I've tried to stay on focus and what we have to continue to do is raise money and look for a new location that
is less expensive."
McPhaul said he has hired an attorney to bring the nonprofit back into compliance that includes increasing the board to five members.
The lawsuit was among several issues discussed during a recent, sometimes contentious, town hall meeting. McPhaul accused some critics of spreading false information. They accused him of withholding financial information.
The meeting included a contingent of YouthPride clients, who demanded a voice on the board and in future discussions.
Rachael Robinson, 24, a YouthPride participant and a college student, said she was frustrated that people in the meeting were talking about "more money and liabilities instead of being concerned about the youth who may and may not be getting the services that YouthPride provides. "
YouthPride was a "lifesaver for me. Going to YouthPride helped me deal with my depression and anxiety and I formed a lot of long-standing, strong friendships there with people who were patient with me and tolerant with me."
Fearing the worst, some people are already looking at alternatives. Kathy Colbenson, CEO of CHRIS Kids, a nonprofit that offers an array of services to youth and families, works with a volunteer task force to examine interim services in case YouthPride closes. She said she has spoken with McPhaul, who is amenable to the help if YouthPride closes.
"We want to make sure that the kids who are receiving services just won't be abandoned," she said. "My goal all along was to stay out of the controversy and keep the focus on the kids. We want to have a safety net for the kids."

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