Originally published: Sept. 19, 2013, 9:16 a.m.
Updated: Sept. 27, 2013, 8:23 a.m.
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Organizers of the new North Star LGBT Community Center proudly debuted their new organization and location on Sept. 21. The opening celebration followed three years of local conversation about the need for a community center.
Teresa Carter, chair of the North Star Center board, said last year’s Amendment One campaign drove her and others to organize the new group.
“After Amendment One was passed, it felt like this would be a great time to work toward a community center,” she said. “We tried to unite everyone, because [the amendment] was such a let down. I thought this was something that could be encouraging and unifying for the community.”
The North Star LGBT Community Center is the first of its kind in the Triad area. The organization, located at 704 Brookstown Ave. in downtown Winston-Salem, will offer a variety of programs and activities, including support groups, drop-in times for youth, meeting space and more. The center is open Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3-8 p.m. It will also be open on Saturdays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
“I see the center as the hub, the center of a wheel,” said Carter, whose 14 board members she said draw from a wide diversity of Winston-Salem’s community. “I feel like it will bring us all together in one place…that’s what we’ve been missing, having one place where we can all be.”
The new organization, which received its federal tax-exempt status last November, has received some of its initial funding from Winston-Salem’s Adam Foundation. They’ve also received a community grant from Wells Fargo. The group is currently in the process of applying for additional grants to pay for a part-time manager and volunteer coordinator they hope to hire by February.
Carter said she hopes that a wide range of activities will keep the momentum flowing past the center’s opening. The group plans to incorporate a number of community activities currently planned independently, including an annual LGBT youth prom in the spring, AA and NA groups and a youth support group.
Organizational sustainability, she said, was a board concern.
“I actually spoke with the board chair of the Raleigh center,” Carter said. “I had two conversations with him and he gave me some great ideas. The main thing I was asking about was longevity. A lot of people are excited right now, of course, but how do you keep it up after a year or two?”
Carter said Winston-Salem’s center will learn from the past experiences of similar organizations. She cited the LGBT Community Center of Charlotte’s recent organizing and fundraising challenges as an example.
“I was a little concerned,” she said. “I saw they had split off having their Pride group and the center. I guess, that’s my main goal, is to make sure we keep this going.”
Discussions about the creation of an LGBT center in Winston-Salem date back three years, when an initial organizing meeting was held for those interested in making it a reality.
The new center joins three others in the Carolinas.
Columbia’s Harriet Hancock LGBT Center opened in 1993. The LGBT Community Center of Charlotte opened its first location on Central Ave. in 2003. In 2008, it moved to Uptown’s NC Music Factory and, in January, opened its current location on N. Davidson St.
The LGBT Center of Raleigh, which will soon move from its prime, but small location on Hillsborough St. to a larger space a few blocks away, first organized in 2009 and shared office space with Triangle Community Works in 2010. The two organizations later merged and, in 2011, moved to its current location on Hillsborough St.
Community members in Asheville are currently brainstorming the possible creation of a center there. : :