Board leaders dish on new location, Democratic Convention
CHARLOTTE â€” The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte got new board leadership in July. Newly-appointed chair Scott Coleman and vice chair Roberta Dun say theyâ€™re encouraged by the organizationâ€™s recent growth and future endeavors.
Coleman, who replaced departing chair John Stotler, has lived in Charlotte since 1990. A native of Greenville, S.C., Coleman saw his first stint in community involvement during the Human Rights Campaign Gala in 2009. Later that year, he began volunteering for the center, joined the board in 2010 and was appointed vice chair last year.
In the time heâ€™s been involved, Coleman says heâ€™s seen a change in how the community interacts with the center.
â€śI think weâ€™ve changed the perception of the center,â€ť he says. â€śPeople are starting to get what the centerâ€™s for. They see where weâ€™re at. I think weâ€™re doing a better job of listening to the community and being a part of the community, which is what the center is all about.â€ť
Dunn, too, believes the community has rallied around the organization. Over the past 18 months, she says, the center has seen a â€śdoubling and tripplingâ€ť of activities and volunteers.
â€śIt used to be an empty shell and now it is full and robust,â€ť Dunn says. â€śI find it much more welcoming to people than it was in the past.â€ť
The center, Coleman notes, has expanded into full-time hours and recently hired Oâ€™Neale Atkinson as a full-time center administrator. Atkinson, who worked briefly as qnotesâ€™ editor this spring, had worked part-time for the center previously.
Dunn and Coleman credit Stotler for their ability to increase programming and center hours.
â€śJohn Stotler did a phenomenal job at the center and got the center back into a good fiscal responsibility,â€ť Dunn says. â€śPeople are donating money, though we still need more, but that has grown because more people are coming into the center. Weâ€™ve seen great growth in our financial outlook and bottom line. Look at it two years ago or a year-and-a-half ago and thereâ€™s no comparison.â€ť
As the center continues to build its finances, leaders there say they are turning their attention to future growth.
â€śWeâ€™re looking for a new location,â€ť Coleman says. â€śWeâ€™ve enjoyed our space here at the NC Music Factory, but weâ€™ve done a good job of growing our programs and weâ€™ve outgrown the space.â€ť
Parking has also been an issue. Dunn says it is a mix of both â€śgood news and bad news.â€ť
â€śWhen we moved here, it was empty,â€ť she says of the Music Factory complex. â€śNow it is at 100 percent and that has taken away one of the convenient things â€” we had drive-up parking.â€ť
Dunn says the parking situation has impacted programs like HIV/AIDS testing and several other events have had to be cancelled when Music Factory events simply overwhelmed available parking.
â€śWhen you cancel too many events, people donâ€™t come back as quickly any more,â€ť Dunn says, noting that a stress on parking makes it more difficult for those who have received free testing at the center . â€śWhen they get here and there is no parking, they leave and they donâ€™t get their results. That is a problem.â€ť
But, parking isnâ€™t the only consideration.
â€śWeâ€™re looking primarily for something with more space,â€ť Coleman says, noting the organizationâ€™s need for increased capacity. â€śWeâ€™re also looking for something with more visibility. Weâ€™ve heard comments made that it is a little bit hard to find us. Weâ€™ve had a lot of people in the community express interest in us moving back into the Plaza Midwood area, so that is where we are focusing our efforts right now.â€ť
Dunn and Coleman also see great potential in the upcoming Democratic National Convention. The center plans to open for extended hours and provide resources and services to visiting LGBT delegates and other visitors.
â€śWeâ€™re inviting delegates to come over and use the center as a rest area,â€ť Dunn says.
A group of community members are also planning an LGBT delegate welcome party. â€śThe center wants to be very supportive and weâ€™re looking at taking a leadership role on that,â€ť Dunn says.
Coleman thinks the recent passage of North Carolinaâ€™s anti-LGBT constitutional amendment has sparked people to action. The DNC, he says, provides an outlet for action.
â€śPeople are more fired up about the convention, especially since Amendment One passed in May,â€ť he says. â€śI think people are becoming more politically active, which is a good thing and I think people want to see more political events at the center where they can get involved.â€ť
Coleman says heâ€™s hoping LGBT or LGBT-friendly politicians will feel welcome to stop by the center for events and to meet and greet local community members and convention-goers.
Ultimately, Coleman wants community members to know that the center can be like home.
â€śI think the center should be the hub of the community,â€ť he says. â€śItâ€™s nice for people to just come and let their hair down and relax and just talk with their friends and enjoy it.â€ť
For more information about the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte, its location, hours, programming or more, visit gaycharlotte.com. : :