WRAP addresses community concerns

Chris Azzopardi
By | 2007-09-20T09:00:00-05:00 September 20th, 2007|News|

ANN ARBOR – The Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project’s board of directors addressed the future of the organization, which is struggling from limited income and a loss of board members, on Sept. 11 at the Kerry Concert House in Ann Arbor.
“That put us in a tailspin,” said WRAP president Michael McGuire, adding that the sudden notice of the move via e-mail surprised many. He noted the dramatic change in board members, financial issues and building problems as causes for their non-renewal of the lease, which ends on Sept. 30, at 319 Braun Court. The period of leadership transition led to uncertainties among the remaining members, and “we couldn’t see into the future,” he said.
Three of seven board members, including the president, had opted to resign before it was decided to change facilities. McGuire says he plans on leaving, although he hinted at the community meeting that there’s a chance he may still stay, if he’s selected as president of the American Music Association. Board member Travis Little is resigning to pursue his master’s degree and completely commit himself to his education, McGuire said. He wouldn’t, however, release the identity or reason the third person stepped down.
“That left the four of us … sort of thinking, ‘What do we do from here?'” said Denise Brogan-Kator, who joined the board about three months ago as the organization underwent changes. She addressed challenges that WRAP now faces, including finding volunteers, collecting money from individuals and businesses and finding new board members.
McGuire also noted the decision to leave Braun Court was due to building problems, including it not being fully handicap-accessible and not private enough to hold confidential therapy meetings.
While community members suggested tapping into colleges for volunteers, hiring a paid staff and diversifying the new board, Pam Benetti suggested merging with Affirmations Lesbians and Gay Community Center in Ferndale. Although the board has considered it, McGuire said it’s not a serious discussion right now.
“It didn’t seem like a place WRAP would want to go at that time (when it was discussed),” he said. “I think if there is a WRAP facility we want it housed, centered and focused in Washtenaw County.”
Board member James Fuester told meeting attendees that WRAP provides, among many other things, a “psychological safety net.” Randy, who didn’t provide his last name, expressed gratitude to the center for helping him come out as both gay and HIV-positive last year, when he was 39. He thanked vice president Jeremy Merklinger for helping him in his journey.
Others, however, expressed anger, stating that WRAP’s e-mail press release stating its decision was unprofessional. A week after one donor contributed to WRAP, she found out via e-mail about the move, she said at the meeting. Upset, she told the board she would have liked a call for a meeting immediately. “It was just not fair,” a member of the advisory committee said. “Why e-mail? Why didn’t you call the advisory committee?”
McGuire apologized for sending out a mass e-mail instead of letting others know by telephone or holding a meeting before OutFest, WRAP’s largest fundraiser.
“We wanted to protect OutFest,” McGuire said.
Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, the landlords of 319 Braun Court, addressed the board, telling them they thought finding out 30 minutes before everyone else was unfair. “There was no discussion of, ‘We’re in trouble. Would you consider lowering the amount (of rent)?'” Orr said, noting that he and Contreras don’t make money off of WRAP. “There’s a little bit of anger here.”
Jackie Simpson, the director of the University of Michigan’s Office of LGBT Affairs, thought WRAP should make decisions that allow the organization to succeed and told everyone to put aside the “political strife.”
“It has nothing to do with Keith and Martin,” she said. “It has to do with dollars. Not the people, not the politics.”

About the Author:

Chris Azzopardi
As editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBTQ wire service, Chris Azzopardi has interviewed a multitude of superstars, including Meryl Streep, Mariah Carey and Beyoncé. Reach him via his website at http://www.chris-azzopardi.com and on Twitter (@chrisazzopardi).