Photo: Justin (L) and Stacey (R) enjoying a moment of playful laughter in the Q Center.

By Sossity Chiricuzio

The Q Center has had some definite ups and downs over the years, ultimately finding itself in a very shaky place both financially, and in terms of community engagement, in 2015. Tensions were high, trust was low, and funds were even lower. It was a complicated load to shoulder, but Stacey and Justin stepped in and stepped up. Supported by the board, their goal as Executive Co-Directors was to help rebuild the Q Center, and recreate it as a welcoming space dedicated to lifting up all the members of our community, and they have succeeded in so many ways.

Under their leadership, and with the vital and diverse input of volunteers, staff, board and community members, the Q Center regained a positive cash flow, reestablished trust with the community, and increased services, visits, and volunteer leadership. It has become a sustainable non-profit, prioritizing and being led by marginalized communities, and providing space for events as varied as the people that gather there. Stacey and Justin have become familiar faces, showing up early and staying late, making sure all the pieces come together smoothly, and filling the space with laughter.

This wonderful work has also been incredibly hard work, requiring levels of energy and attention that preclude almost everything else, including self care. Now that their goal of re-establishing the Q Center as a trusted and stable resource has been reached, they are ready to step out of their roles to make space for new executive leadership that can look at it from new angles and bring a full reserve of the energy this type of leadership calls for. They will both stay on through the end of the year to help the new leadership team get acclimated and to ensure programs, services, and fundraising efforts continue uninterrupted.

Transitions can be rough, and they raise a lot of questions, so I asked Stacey, Justin, and a few Board members for some answers to share with you all.

I adore working with Stacey and Justin, and I’ve learned so much from both of them. I’m going to miss them. I’m also curious about what’s next for Q Center, and who is going to show up to bring that work forward.

What are you most excited about because of this transition?

Stacey Rice, Co-ED: That there will be new energy to take Q Center to the next level with the work that has been done over the last two and a half years building a solid foundation at Q Center. Q Center’ future is very bright!

Justin Pabalate, Co-ED: I’m excited that we’re able to step away. Having the financial stability to transition is a huge indicator of the increased support and community reliance that Q Center has received over these last two years. It’s also a reflection of how hard the staff, board and volunteers have worked to ensure that our community center reflects the leadership of our various communities. I’m also excited that I’ll be able to spend more time with my family. While challenging and immensely rewarding, it needs to be said that rebuilding a resource like Q Center required an immense amount of personal time, energy and emotional labor. I’m honored that I was able to serve my community at a time it needed me and I’m proud of us for being able to step away to make space for others in our community to enter into leadership.

Samantha Taylor, Board Member: Of course, I’m definitely going to miss Stacey and Justin, their work is invaluable. What I’m looking forward to is having a new ED come in with a well of energy to help elevate Q to its next level. And, someone to help us celebrate the our 15 year anniversary next year!

Athen O’Shea, Board Chair: I’m excited that we’re in a position to make this transition! Many moments over the past couple of years have been touch-and-go, but it’s been clear for awhile now that Q Center was through rebuilding and into a new phase of growth. With more stability comes opportunity, and for us I think that means deepening some of our program work and evolving it for communities we’re currently not serving. I adore working with Stacey and Justin, and I’ve learned so much from both of them. I’m going to miss them. I’m also curious about what’s next for Q Center, and who is going to show up to bring that work forward.

What do you want the community to know?

SR: That Q Center is on very solid footing and that we are not leaving because of issues or problems here. Quite the contrary, Q Center is in great shape, financially, organizationally and programmatically.

JP: One thing is that we will still be supporting the Q Center as support staff to ensure the new team is set up for success and that I hold immense gratitude for everyone who has supported us and each other over these last two and a half years. I’m proud to be part of this community. Another important thing I would like the community to know is that this is their, our, center and it can be what you need and want it to be. That said, in order for that to happen, it needs financial support and community direction. If you want to be involved, we want you to be involved and there will be a place for you at that proverbial table. Just reach out.

AO: Q Center really is a different place than it was a few years ago. I feel it myself when I come into the space, but it’s especially rewarding to hear from people just moving here, how they see Q Center—as a resource, a place to come inside and be welcome, get support, meet friends, organize, build community… I think we set out to re-imagine what an LGBTQIA+ community center might be, grounded in a sense of justice and possibility, and so many people have helped bring that vision to life. Now it’s taken on a momentum of its own, and that’s really exciting. I don’t think the work at Q Center is done, but I’m very grateful for the thousands of hours, collectively, that have brought us here.

What sorts of support do you need?

SR: We need community to keep pitching in to help in the ways that they can. Q Center runs on a very lean staff and we have been blessed that our staff is so committed and passionate about the work that we do here. But with a lean staff, we need lots of help, whether it is volunteering with us, donating, becoming a board member, etc.. It is the main reason that we are thriving two and a half years after we started to rebuild. We couldn’t have done it with the help of the entire community.

JP: While we have made great strides in repairing past and establishing new relationships Q Center is a community resource and a nonprofit that depends on everyday people to make financial contributions. Any amount that is meaningful to you is meaningful to us and has real impacts for our center. We need your leadership and support to further the mission and vision of Q Center.

So much of what happens at Q Center is brought by volunteers and community partners, and that’s what makes the space vibrant as well as sustainable.

How will community members be affected?

SR: We feel like these changes will have minimal impact. The principles and systems that drive our work at Q Center are still in place and working wonderfully and those will continue with new leadership. And to make sure it is minimal impact, Justin and I have agreed to stay on in part time roles as support staff and advisers for the next ED.

AO: Stacey and Justin are making a gradual transition, which gives us time to do a thoughtful hiring process. I think most people won’t even realize that Q is in a leadership transition. Internally, we’ll prioritize what most needs to happen and some longer-term projects will go on the back burner for the next few months. Lead volunteers will continue to manage some key tasks, and board members will pick up some tasks as well. But daily life at Q Center will mostly continue as it has been. So much of what happens at Q Center is brought by volunteers and community partners, and that’s what makes the space vibrant as well as sustainable.

What can folks do to help us find new leadership?

AO: Right now, the board is gathering information and planning to release a job announcement by early October. We appreciate all the help we can get with forwarding that info through our LGBTQIA+ community networks! We’ll also put out a brief community survey over the next couple of weeks, and we hope to learn a lot from that. We did a community survey as part of the leadership transition in 2015, and that information has deeply informed our decisions over the past couple of years—including hiring Stacey and Justin.

People in our communities are incredibly talented and skillful, many with years of volunteer and professional experience in nonprofits and community organizing. LGTBQIA+ people are also frequently overlooked in hiring, especially people who are marginalized along more than one intersection of race, gender, ability, or age. We’re looking for executive leadership that brings the right mix of lived, earned, and professional experience for the next phase of Q Center. If you think that could be you, then we really hope you will apply.

ST: As a new board member, I’m excited to work in service to our community—through a lens of equity and Black Feminist intersectionality—to help find a new Director for our beloved Q Center. The emerging and continued leadership of Black and Brown trans and queer people in Portland will indeed insure our collective survival and success. None of us are immune to change. It is, after all, the only constant. What we can do is commit to supporting each other through it. That is my commitment to the Board and the community at large.

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Be sure to pitch in how you can, and keep the Q Center as vibrant and vital as it is right now! Volunteer, start a resource group, make use of the Art Gallery and Library for events and gatherings, and remember to give thanks as well as suggestions to all the folks working so hard to keep those doors open.

Save the date for SHINE, the annual brunch gala where they will be celebrating Stacey and Justin and everything the Q Center family has accomplished with their leadership. They will share updates from staff and board, and will be honoring some of our community leaders. This year’s gala is on Sunday October 8th from 10:30-2. It’s a brunch gathering and all you can drink mimosas are included! You can get tickets and more information at https://qcenter.ejoinme.org/MyEvents/SHINEwithQ2017.
Tickets are $10-$100 and tables of 10 are $1,000. This event is a sliding scale gala so people can pay what is right for them, keeping in mind this is a fundraiser for the center.


Sossity Chiricuzio is a writer and columnist based out of Portland, Oregon. She is a regular contributor for PQ Monthly and focuses on social justice, communication, community, and changing the world. You can reach her at sossity@pqmonthly.com or follow her online @sossitywrites.

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