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Linking Activists and Advocates

Collaborate effort in York - the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center

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“The LGBTQIA+ Resource Center is a touchpoint - a safe space and hub for all of the amazing but previously unlinked activism in the York region,” says founder and Board president Vicar Carla Christopher.

The Resource Center as a hub was born out of York’s inclusive answer to the question how to acknowledge and celebrate Pride?

What evolved is a series of venues known as the Equality Fest family of events. The series includes Equality Fest (August), Equality Fest Jr. (May), Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil (Nov.), and other vigils, celebrations, and emergency responses prompted by events.

The ground-level need for the Resource Center grew out of numerous email requests for individual assistance. Over time and in an organic fashion, a virtual Resource Center run by a few individuals who put their shoulder to the wheel of community organizing operated for almost two years. The virtual evolved into the physical as those individuals, formal and informal groups realized their next step was developing a physical safe space.

May launch

That space was launched last May, when much needed and welcomed LGBTQIA+ Resource Center formally affiliated with the York Jewish Community Center’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Social Justice (IDEAS) Center.

“Now the Resource Center operates in a transitional space. We have a physical office to raise awareness in the community and to liaise on events, activities, and trainings, Christopher explains. “However, a lot of offsite work still occurs, especially virtually,” she notes.

Christopher acknowledges that while the current office now “shows up on the radar,” it does not completely fulfil the role of a typical queer space with large lounges and private group session space. However, she says, the board is actively working with the Jewish Community Center and their shared partners to address how to positively move forward on developing a private office where people can meet with volunteers and conduct closed-door sessions.

Philosophy matters

“There is lots of individual inspiration (in York) to start things, but there is little support and it’s always hard to get the word out,” realized Christopher.

During its formation, the Resource Center board focused on the center’s ‘philosophy,” asking if the entity should be a content creator or a hub of information. “There is lots of individual inspiration in the York region to start things, but there is little support and it’s always hard to get the word out,” Christopher realized. Given the already outstanding work of many community organizations, including programs such as the long-operating PFLAG York, Planned Parenthood’s The Curve, newcomer Spectrum York, and the local Gay-Straight Alliance’s operating at both Martin Library and many educational institutions, the board agreed, as a start. to function as an informational hub and event coordinator to the York region. They will also identify program, service, and information gaps and determine how to best address them.

Since forming, the Resource Center has completed training to entities aspiring to become queer competent and affirming, including the York City’s Department of Health, and adoption agencies, faith communities, and medical doctor and therapist offices. “We have also worked with commercial downtown stores and outlets and local non-profits such as the Human Relations Commission, our partner the Jewish Community Center, and the YWCA to become more affirming, equitable, and inclusive of queer folx,” Christopher conveys.

Part of the Resource Center’s foundation requires a reorganizational movement from grassroots to an intentional organization. That includes the need to reverse roles - where the Equality Festival will become a mission of the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center, rather than the opposite. Eventually the two will have separate though coordinating boards. Beginning in 2020, the Resource Center hopes to have a specific strategic plan for growth, a mission, and a vision.

“Our goal is to make a more affirming York County through celebratory, safe space, and educational events,” Christopher assures. The Resource Center intends to do such through continuing to provide event coordination, advocacy, individual resource referral, cultural competency workshops, diversity training sessions, as well as business and organizational meetings, she explains.

The Resource Center is also looking for ways to increase partnerships in the community and regionally, including LGBT Center of Central PA for training facilitators to provide programs and generating new groups.

Vicar Christopher “sees our mission to empower other folx, but we need more resources and marketing, in hopes to provide scholarships, training opportunities, direct service needs, and to build further capacity at the Resource Center.”

As part restructuring, the Resource Center will seek more funding sources. While not currently a 501c3, or nonprofit registered organization, the entity currently has multiple fiscal sponsors and organizes numerous annual fundraisers through those sponsors, which include restaurants such as The Handsome Cab and The Cove, as well as religious organizations including Union Lutheran Church and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of York, in addition to private businesses and donors.

“The Resource Center has also been blessed to receive thousands of in-kind financial contributions through advertisements and in-house printing services which helped to support the funding of the festivals and the virtual center,” Christopher says. However, the organization’s board recognizes that they will need a whole other level of funding for the physical center they now work to maintain.

Providing a physical space does not require only financial backing. It also requires people power.

The Resource Center currently has a dedicated but small group of volunteers that hold open office hours, as well as an energized taskforce of individuals looking for funding opportunities, and an ever-growing board to assist in the reorganization and promotion.

Consequently, the Resource Center offers training for those interested in becoming a resource coordinator to help run the operation. The Resource Center gladly accepts donated LGBTQIA+ gently used books for their lending library, as well as historical items and memorabilia, and queer-created or centric art pieces.

To get involved or contribute to the Center, please reach them by emailing equalityfestyork@gmail.com.

Editor's note: Tesla Taliaferro is a board member of the LGBTQIA+ Resource Center and a founding member of Spectrum York.