ANN ARBOR — Today the Jim Toy Community Center announced plans to close its physical office space, located at 319 Braun Court, at the end of the month. The organization, which will continue to operate without a physical location, expressed hope that an in-person community center could be possible again in a post-pandemic future.
“Unfortunately, due to the challenges presented by the closure of our Braun Court neighbors — Common Language Bookstore and Aut Bar — in addition to the ongoing struggle of maintaining a largely-vacant physical center during a public health crisis, it is with a tremendous amount of sadness that we announce plans to close our physical center at the end of the month,” said outgoing JTCC President Travis Radina. “We remain incredibly optimistic, however, the Jim Toy Community Center will, once again, have a physical presence in the Ann Arbor area at some point in the future. Until then, we will remain focused on hosting Ann Arbor Pride and other community events, advocating for LGBTQ-friendly policies statewide and locally, and engaging with local LGBTQ community members to identify areas of need that our organization may be able to meet.”
In addition to the loss of other major LGBTQ-focused businesses in Braun Court, the financial challenges of maintaining a volunteer-run and non-profit Community Center during a pandemic became unsustainable for the organization. In announcing its closure, JTCC also launched a GoFundMe effort to raise additional funds to help cover organizational expenses, help offset unexpected financial challenges from the pandemic and after a break-in earlier this summer, and to begin planning for the future of the Center.
“Regrettably, the pandemic has severely impacted our financial outlook. We have experienced dramatic declines in fundraising revenue, while the expense of operating our physical, now-vacant, center has largely remained steady. We also suffered a break-in a few months ago that resulted in some physical damage to the Center, and financial and property loss,” Radina explained, “Our board determined that if we wanted to continue operating and withstand the challenges of the pandemic, we needed to dramatically cut costs and generate extra funds to begin investing in a strong, post-pandemic future for the Center. That is why we are calling on the community for help: If you believe that Ann Arbor deserves a vibrant and robust LGBTQ Community Center, we need your support and investment, now more than ever.”
This announcement comes alongside the announcement that the center will continue on with a brand-new leadership team. In a unanimous vote, the Jim Toy Community Center Board of Directors voted to elect 2020 Ann Arbor Pride Director, Joe Schoch, as President of the organization for 2021. Vice President Diana Cass and Treasurer Robert Joerg were both re-elected to their roles, and Sindhu Sreedhar will join the leadership team as the Center’s new Board Secretary. Per organizational bylaws, Radina will remain on the board as Immediate Past President to help transition the organization to new leadership.
“It was a great privilege and honor serving the Washtenaw County LGBTQ Community as President of the Jim Toy Community Center for the past four years,” Radina said. “I am incredibly proud of what we have accomplished — especially the expansion of Ann Arbor Pride, the now-annual celebration of Transgender Day of Visibility, our advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ rights with both state and local government officials, and our expanding partnerships with other organizations working toward the ideals of equity and justice. While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges for the future of the organization, I have absolute confidence that this new leadership team has the vision and experience to guide the Jim Toy Center toward even more success in the future.”
Schoch officially assumed responsibility as President of the Jim Toy Community Center on Jan. 1, 2021, after being elected during the Board’s December meeting. Schoch has served on the Jim Toy Community Center Board of Directors for two years and has several more years of experience working on the Ann Arbor Pride planning committee, most recently as Director of Ann Arbor Pride for 2020, where he oversaw the highly successful implementation of virtual Pride to keep the celebration alive during COVID-19.
“I am very grateful for the confidence the Jim Toy Community Center board has expressed in me through this election and I’m very excited about the opportunity to shape the future of the Center over the next year,” Schoch said. “Between the closing of our physical space at the end of January and managing other challenges presented by this ongoing pandemic, 2021 will be a critical year for the Center. I look forward to working with the rest of our leadership team to continue providing steady and responsible oversight of our organization, hosting Ann Arbor Pride and other community events, advocating for LGBTQ-friendly policies statewide and locally, and developing a vision for an even stronger post-pandemic LGBTQ Community Center.
To support the Center’s GoFundMe efforts, please visit its campaign here.