The Jim Toy Community Center has gone through a lot of changes in recent weeks. Simultaneously came the news that it would be forced to close its doors because of the novel coronavirus pandemic and that its past president, Travis Radina, would be stepping down because he was elected to the Ann Arbor City Council. However, newly elected President Joe Schoch, along with a brand-new leadership team, wants to make clear that the center isn't going anywhere. In fact, he's planning on being more plugged in than ever.
"During these tough times … it's when the community needs us the most," Schoch said. "… The first thing that I'm going to focus on this year is our community engagement."
First, he said he'll prioritize virtual outreach through both the center's site and Facebook page to ensure a direct line of contact to the community remains unbroken. Secondly, he plans to use the donations from the Center's $30,000 GoFundMe campaign to begin a capital fund.
"We, quite transparently, are not in the immediate need to find a physical space. Mainly because we wouldn't be able to use it, and one of the big factors in choosing to close the center now is so that we could be fiscally responsible and good stewards of the donations that we receive," Schoch said. "So, instead of waiting until we're ready to open up the center, we want to get ahead of that. We want to make sure that the capital fund could contribute to a down payment or a long-term rental or leasing agreement down the line when options become available to us."
That's not all that the GoFundMe dollars will assist with, however. Operationally, it'll provide funds to keep the virtual Jim Toy Center running. It would cover things like "insurance, technical infrastructure, outreach, marketing supplies, letters, stamps for campaigns, and things like that."
"We want to make sure that we are the next iteration of the Jim Toy Community Center will be successful and sustainable and also will be what the community needs. And from that we want to look into doing a community survey and figure out [how to] reintroduce ourselves to the community we're serving and have them have an opportunity to reintroduce themselves to us and really customize the programming — especially during this unique time," Schoch said.
That's because Schoch is prioritizing a greater community stake in the goings-on the Center in order to better serve the community.
"I think people should also be aware that as a community center we want to be sure that we're getting the feedback and serving our community accurately and with the right means and manner," he said. "So, if people do have ideas or specific issues that they would like to see the Center do, I'd love to hear that community feedback and build up our community center together. We'll be reaching out proactively."
Already, there are new plans to plug into the community from a health perspective. The Center has partnered with Michigan Medicine to sit on its advisory board and provide an LGBTQ+ lens for patient advocacy. New programming is set to debut to further expand upon those goals also.
"This year, in 2021, it's a rebuilding year and a [prep] year for 2022 when the world hopefully looks a little more recognizable and we are able to gather safely in person," Schoch said. "We are still present. We are still engaged. We are still here. And we are very energized to continue supporting our community during these difficult times. I hope people are excited about some of the changes that are going to be coming up — some of those things being increased visibility and accessibility in the community through virtual settings."