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K’zoo Center faces dire financial crunch

By |2018-01-16T11:06:59-05:00December 23rd, 2004|Uncategorized|

By Sarah Mieras

Suggested Info Box within story:
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KALAMAZOO – After providing services in southwest Michigan for 17 years, four of those years through the open doors of its Pioneer Road office, the Kalamazoo Gay and Lesbian Resource Center is ending the year in financial crisis. Without significant financial support from the community, the crisis could soon force the Center to cut back staff, services, and maybe even close its doors.
An upcoming New Year’s Eve benefit that includes a casino night and a silent auction, said the Center’s Executive Director Sharon Roepke, could be one answer to the Center’s financial woes. That is, if enough reservations are received to keep the event from being cancelled.
“The board is still debating whether we will have this event,” said Roepke. “If more reservations don’t come in we can’t afford to host it. We need 100 reservations, and we just aren’t there yet.”
The Resource Center’s dire financial situation became apparent earlier this fall. The crunch, said Roepke, is the result of a dip in support from a variety of funding sources colliding with a difficult political climate.
“Money is tight for all non-profits, but some of us are really struggling, our grant sources are declining. The political climate has also made it harder in the sense that a lot of folks are discouraged. Since we have to continually fight these political battles, a limited number of donors are spreading their money thinner. The impact is that services end up getting cut.”
A less than robust economy and job losses among longtime individual supporters of the Center, noted Roepke, has also led to a sharp decline in personal donations and an increase in the demand for services. Nearly two years ago job cuts and transfers at one of the regions largest employers, Pfizer, caused the Center’s designated United Way donations to drop by 50 percent.
At the same time individuals, large donors and grant sources are tightening their belts, the Center has seen the demand for its services nearly double, especially those programs offered for area LGBT youth.
“We are running two age-defined youth groups now, and they have doubled in size in the last year,” said Roepke. “We are drawing kids from as far away as Ohio and Muskegon for meetings. You would think that with gay/straight alliances there would be less of a need for youth groups, but many of the kids attending our groups come from schools without gay/straight alliances.”
As youth come out earlier the issues they face at school and at home become more complex. Youth groups, said Roepke, serve to offer them coping mechanisms to deal with these issues, and a space to be themselves.
Aside from its growing youth services, the Center also has an extensive Senior program and is home to a lending library and social groups. Another core of the Center’s work is conducting trainings with area employers and service providers to improve their ability to handle LGBT clients and employees.
“At least half of our work is with people who aren’t members of our community, this is done through outreach programs providing education to educators and counselors,” explained Roepke.
Heading into the New Year, Roepke isn’t sure which direction the Center will go.
“We don’t have any imminent plans to close the Center, but in order to continue offering these support services we need more support. The center will always function in some capacity, but without more funding the format of the center could change drastically,” she said.
“We don’t want to go back to being an office space where people call in and occasionally get a volunteer on the phone.”
A recent call for help has been successful, bringing in nearly $10,000. However, according to Roepke, another $50,000 is needed to keep the Center’s services intact.
“Our annual appeal was successful, but $10,000 is less than a month of operations, and right now we don’t have grant sources to cover our operation costs for the next year.”
A capital campaign, and the upcoming New Year’s Eve benefit are two ways the Center hopes to raise the necessary funds to keep programming at its current level.
If you can’t make it to the New Year’s Eve event, Roepke suggests visiting the on-line silent auction to purchase your holiday gifts.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.