TOY finds that there’s ‘no place like home’

Youth organization purchases permanent location

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — On Dec. 29, 2016, the Board of Directors of Time Out Youth Center (TOY) closed on the purchase of its first permanent location since the organization was established 25 years ago.

Located at 3800 Monroe Rd. in East Charlotte, the property has a building with 7,400 square feet of space, as well as ample parking and a plot of land that would facilitate development in the future. The purchase price was $875,000.

Renovations will start this month, with a grand opening scheduled for April 9.

The organization supports LGBTQ youth, ages 11-20, and offers them vital programs, fostering unconditional acceptance, and creating safe spaces for self-expression through leadership, community support and advocacy.

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In a September 2016 announcement, TOY shared that the current 3,000 square-foot space located at 2320 N. Davidson St. was purchased by a developer on Aug. 31, 2016. The new owners seek access to the property during the spring of 2017. Over the last number of months, properties were inspected and investigated with key requirements in mind, especially ample space to house all the programs that TOY provided, as well as strategically planned expansion options and services, including building a 10-bed transitional living shelter for LGBTQ homeless youth by 2020. After researching other rental spaces and conducting a detailed cost analysis, the board “felt the purchase was a prudent investment and worthy of the community’s support,” the center shared.

TOY conducted a study in 2015 to research and quantify the needs and interests of LGBTQ homeless youth. This study was undertaken after the center identified LGBTQ homeless youth as a crucial-need demographic. The center published and distributed the “LGBTQ Homeless Youth of the Carolinas Needs Assessment” in September 2016. The report served as a call to members of the community — policy makers, service providers, funding agencies and donors — to act on recommendations from this project, the center added. The property is already zoned for both current and future shelter plans.

Rodney Tucker, who has been executive director of the organization for the past five years, disclosed, “We’re now operating on a $550,000 annual budget, with six full-time staff, three part-time staff, more than 100 volunteers and a dedicated board of directors. We’ve accomplished so much for the youth of our community, but when legislation like HB2 comes forward, we still have a lot to do to protect our youth and encourage them to become full participants in our community.”

The single-level space on Monroe Rd. sits near the intersection of Monroe Rd. and Eastway Dr./Wendover Rd. and is right on a Charlotte Area Transit Authority bus-line route with stops adjacent to the front of the building. It will also provide a meeting space for community groups, and a few office spaces will be available for rent to related LGBTQ youth groups.

“The center is here to stay,” stated Board Chair Michael Condel, who is a senior vice president at Wells Fargo. “We were already outgrowing our N. Davidson St. space, and with the attention that HB2 received in the state and national press during the past year, there were increased demands for services from youth, parents, educators and allies. The center is in a strong financial position to consider this option. We knew we would have to move one day, so we’ve been preparing. We’ve built up our reserves, and we had the down payment for the purchase without adversely affecting our operations.”

Condel added, “With this purchase, we are also announcing an ambitious five-year campaign to raise $3.4 million dollars. Usually there is a ‘silent campaign’ before announcing the public part of capital campaign; unfortunately, with a move imminent, we don’t have that luxury. We’ll be fast-forwarding our fundraising, and will be calling on the community to invest in our future with a capital gift, an annual operating gift and/or a legacy gift.”

The five-year capital campaign monies will cover the cost of the building purchase and renovations, expand programs and services, build an LGBTQ homeless youth transitional living shelter by 2020, add to operating reserves by establishing a quasi-endowment fund through the Foundation for the Carolinas, and allow the center to remain debt-free, the organization said. All 16 board members have made a pledge to the capital campaign, TOY shared. They are: Condel (president), Erin Goldstein (vice chair), Malone Lockaby (treasurer), Layton Campbell (secretary), Sara Abadi, Chris Arnold, Victor Armstrong, Jessica Chapman, Doug Driggers, Brittiny Ingram, Joseph Lewis, Barry Pettinato, Sherie E. Pearsall, Scott Stover, Chris Triolo, Jenny Yum and Connie Vetter. Youth board members are Ashlynn Anderson, Tori Cornejo and Dani Swinderman.

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TOY reported that figures through November of 2016 showed that the center had over 4,152 sign-ins for use of the after-school drop-in space (compared to 2,300 sign-ins during all of 2015). TOY provides safe space for activities and workshops, counseling services among dozens of other youth programs.

Key staff for phase one include: John Fryday, Fryday & Doyne Architecture (architect); Keeble Construction (contractor); Dan Kirsch (development and strategy); TruPack Movers; PNC Bank (financing); and Chris Thomas, Partner, Childress Klein (commercial realtor).

Started in 1991, TOY’s founder Tonda Taylor held her first support group meeting with just four lesbian and gay youth. The group went on to work with clergy, educators and young people to change the landscape and local environment for LGBT youth.

In its first few years, it hosted the area’s first LGBT youth prom, challenged those who were non-inclusive in their practices and was part of national initiatives on LGBT youth and more.

Since its inception, TOY has grown exponentially and has partnered with a number of organizations and youth organizations, both locally and nationally. Those included are Advocates for Youth, Campus Pride, CenterLink, Forty to None Project, GLSEN, GSA Network, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and others. It has even been the recipient of grants from such organizations as Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, Laughing Gull Foundation, Freeman Foundation, Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation, Gamma Mu Foundation, Farewell to Summer Foundation and sponsors of the group’s annual Platinum Gala and Celebration of the Arts. Support from the community has come from Alexander Children Homes, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Libraries, Freedom Center for Social Justice, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Center of Raleigh, Mecklenburg County Public Health, Outright Youth-Catawba Valley, Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, The Relatives, Safe Alliance, Youth Out Right-Asheville and the Women’s Commission of Mecklenburg County. TOY has also established satellites in Gaston and Cabarrus Counties.

TOY was a 2014 David Bohnett Foundation Cyber Center grant recipient. The grant totaled $34,487 that covered the acquisition of computers and other associated costs to set up an IT workspace. Today it is a state-of-the-art facility. The organization also has a library that houses literature to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth.

For more information about the Time Out Youth Center, the new building or the capital campaign, contact Tucker at rtucker@timeoutyouth.org or visit the organization’s website at timeoutyouth.org.

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Posted by Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen is QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director. She can be reached at specialassignments@goqnotes.com and 704-531-9988, x205.