Spring has come to the region and despite the turmoil that suddenly struck Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world, the flowers have begun to bloom at the Rainbow Rose Center. And those blooms include the center which is York County’s LGBTQIA+ resource center, where formalization of the organization and its programming is well underway.
In February, dedicated center volunteers discussed how to move the center forward. They vote unanimously to seek 501(c)3 nonprofit status to better serve the York LGBTQIA+ community.
In March, the organization held its first official board meeting where those attending elected a standing board, adopted organizational bylaws, and established committees. The newly elected board decided, for the time being, to keep the center as a volunteer-based organization while establishing definite structure through focused committees.
In April, with officers elected and bylaws adopted, the center filed Articles of Incorporation with the Department of State to officially mark creation of the nonprofit organization. This is the first of many steps the organization and its board will undertake.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created opportunities for the board to reach out to the York LGBTQIA+ community in new and creative ways. While unable to hold office hours in person, the center continues to serve the York County LGBTQIA+ community by answering questions online and providing virtual support to those in need. This is where Shannon McElroy, who joins the board as the Marketing and Communications Committee chair, and Shae Habersham, chair of the Community Outreach Committee, will get to shine. McElroy has already begun to get the social media pages under better management and is creating social media policies. Habersham is working with her committee to determine the parameters for organizations, agencies, and businesses that the center would potentially want to partner with to fulfill its mission.
While still in the early stages of achieving nonprofit status, the center, like many small businesses and nonprofit organizations, is feeling the financial pressure during this time. Sara Seymore, who heads the Fundraising Committee, is formulating new ideas to help the center continue meet the needs of their mission. And though school is out during the crisis, Eli Holland-Garcia, who coordinates the efforts of the Academic Support Committee, will continue to reach out to local Gay Straight Alliance programs to see how the center can best support them.
The crisis has also put on hold many of the center’s Spring and Summer events. Rather than cancel the annual Equality Fest Jr. and Equality Fest events, the board plans to postpone and possibly combine the events in the fall after the pandemic has passed.
With less than pressing need for volunteers during the pandemic, Anne Gray realizes that “the next few months will be a challenging time to lead the Volunteer Committee.” She looks forward to continuing to recruit, interview, and onboard those looking to get involved, though also recognizes that the onboarding process must be different for the time being. “Where we would normally be excited to meet each new volunteer in person and show them around the center, right now we have to do interviews online and put off the in-person stuff for later,” Gray says. As the Volunteer Committee chair, she is also using the forced downtime to set up training sessions to ensure all participants understand their impact and need for compassion while serving as Resource Specialists at the center’s office hours and in engaging with the community.
Less impacted by the pandemic is Charles D. Kress, who chairs the Awards Committee. Mostly working behind the scenes already, he and the committee will leverage their knowledge of longstanding advocates and champions of the LGBTQIA+ community and make recommendations to the board on who should be recognized for their service. Those honorees will be awarded later this year, likely at one of the postponed events. Currently, the center’s Coming Out Day Celebration is scheduled for Oct. 11, though additional event information will be published online through the organization’s website and social media posts.
With founder and now Reverend Carla Christopher transitioning into the role of Past President and allowing her to focus on her new ministry at Lancaster’s Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, she passes on the baton to the new slate of capable leaders. The center’s Executive Committee and the organization’s board is now led by President-elect Tesla Taliaferro, who was nominated by Christopher, and will use his background of coordinating efforts and people to ensure the organization flourishes.
D. Maria McCargo Gable will continue her longtime activism within the York LGBTQIA+ community as she fills the role of Vice-President. Kevin Forry will bring his financial knowledge and experience as a commercial banker as Treasurer. Christina M. Stetler, with a background in nonprofit fundraising, will manage the records as Secretary.
Though in bloom, the organization has not yet fully blossomed.
The center continues to seek out those who wish to get involved personally and those who would like to contribute financially, as well as in other ways. There are still openings on the organization’s board and each committee needs to have people partake in discussions. To get engaged, the organization requests people to contact them through their email at email@example.com, Facebook Messenger, or by visiting their website at http://rainbowrosecenter.org and clicking the relevant resource on the “Meet Our Team” page.