Q Center Undergoes Dynamic Change

Q CenterBy Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly

The work to rebuild Q Center is well underway; since the resignation of former Executive Director Barb McCullough-Jones, the majority of Q Center’s Board of Directors, and the revelation that Q Center was in dire straits financially, the community has responded in resounding fashion and new leadership is in place and hard at work, taking swift, decisive action while working to come up with sustainable, long-term plans to ensure Q Center’s long life and success.

PQ Monthly has learned Q Center and New Avenues for Youth are partnering together to better serve LGBTQ youth by relocating SMYRC, Portland’s Sexuality and Gender Minority Youth Resource Center. Currently located in NE Portland, SMYRC will be moving downtown to New Avenues’ Joyce N. Furman building (1220 SW Columbia). This is another savvy, positive move in righting the big queer ship–both Q Center and SMYRC are vital community resources, and they must be preserved. Q’s interim board and advisory committee certainly seem up to the task.
With SMYRC’s current lease coming to an end in early 2015, New Avenues for Youth has made a commitment to assist in continuity for SMYRC while a community engagement process rolls out with Q Center to determine the needs and future of SMYRC and Q Center.  The relocation reinforces services for LGBTQ youth, many of whom identify as homeless. “40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, and 70% of the SMYRC youth identify as homeless; it’s important that we are meeting them where they are,” says Micheal Weakley, Youth & Young Adult Program Manager at Q Center. “This new site provides accessibility for youth, and the partnership with New Avenues for Youth only strengthens the outreach we’re able to provide.”
SMYRC’s new location is currently home to New Avenues’ Artist Mentorship Program (AMP), which uses music and art to connect with homeless youth. Equipped with computers, a full service kitchen and office space, the downtown location offers greater access to public transportation and gives SMYRC’s youth the opportunity to connect to New Avenues’ array of services including counseling, job-training, as well as participate in AMP. At this time, SMYRC will remain a program of Q Center.
“There is considerable overlap in the populations SMYRC and New Avenues for Youth serve, and this partnership creates exciting new opportunities for our organizations and for youth,” says New Avenues for Youth’s Executive Director, Sean Suib. “By working together we’ll be able to leverage our resources, coordinate outreach efforts and better meet the needs of LGBTQ youth in our community.” Q Center plans to organize a “day of service” to coordinate with the move–January 19.
“We need the following prior to the move:  moving boxes, tape and plastic bins. Any of these items can be dropped off at SMYRC by contacting micheal@pdxqcenter.org. The day of the move we need people to help move items from SMYRC and receive items at New Avenues for Youth. Duties will vary from moving in new items, cleaning and arranging storage as well as cleaning clothing donations. We also need food and bus gift cards as incentives for our youth participants.  Bus cards can be purchased at http://store.trimet.org/. Micheal Weakley, Youth and Young Adult Program Manager is the main contact. Please connect with him if you are interested in volunteering for the day of service: micheal@pdxqcenter.org.”
Community Involvement
“I’ve been asked why I took a board level position with Q Center. It’s because it’s where my heart was in the beginning. If I just sit here and complain, then take me out of the equation. I want to be a part of the solution.”–Robert Gorman, Q Center Interim Board
Know your voice matters: connect directly with the Interim leadership at Q Center, email them: Leadership@pdxqcenter.org.
A small but growing group of people have formed the Community Committee, charged with organizing and facilitating the community engagement process to help determine the needs of the community and Q Center’s role. Initial planning includes a town hall forum in the end of January (date TBD). A basic survey to be available both online and in paper form is being finalized, and small group discussions have begun, led by and for some of Q Center’s most affected and/or disenfranchised communities.
These will be a chance to participate in much needed conversations about multigenerational, community-based LGBTQ support and services in Portland. Some of the questions that we might ask ourselves and each other in this process: What do we currently do well as a community (in and across our intersectional communities) in terms of support and services? What’s missing and most needed? How do we fund what we need? What funding models match our mission(s), are sustainable, and get the work done? Do we still need a multigenerational LGBTQ community center in Portland? If so, how can Q Center be that place? What can we do to return stewardship of our community center back to the community?
New Leadership
              Additionally, Q Center has announced some dynamic changes to their current leadership structure, which includes the return of Karen Petersen:
“Two co-chairs have been elected to the Interim Board of Directors:  Antoinette Edwards and Karen Petersen. Antoinette is the founder of PFLAG Portland Black Chapter, whose life’s work centers on healing community violence and trauma in communities of color. She is committed to helping right some wrongs, assist with community healing, and chart the course forward.  “I believe in and am inspired by Q Center’s mission, vision, and values,” says Antoinette.  “I value the power of relationships and the importance of pursuing, developing, and nurturing even beyond the difficult times.”
Karen returns to Q Center in an extraordinary role, fulfilling co-chair duties on the Interim Board, while volunteering her time in day-to-day operations on site at Q Center. Karen brings 13 years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management, a master’s degree in nonprofit management and fundraising, and a long history of involvement as a straight ally in LGBTQ issues. “I’m deeply, personally invested in seeing Q Center succeed. It’s a new day, a new time, and a new year at Q Center, and it’s an irreplaceable asset for all of us who count ourselves as part of the LGBTQ community.”
Also joining the interim board of directors is Jose Rivas. Jose is the Events Director for the Portland Business Alliance and a long time community advocate. He has served as Festival Chair of Latino Pride, worked in Membership and Outreach for Human Rights Campaign, and serves on the Board of Directors at Our House of Portland. Everything Jose touches turns to gold.
PQ Monthly encourages you, our community, to get involved—sustaining Q Center and all its important programs will take a village. Donate, write leadership, volunteer your time—every contribution matters.
To review previous leadership in place as of December, 2014, post ED-resignation:
Q Center Interim Board
Stephanie Hooper, current Q Center Board Member and Leora Coleman Fire, current Q Center Board Member
New Additions
              Antoinette Edwards, PBPFLAG Board Member; Zan Gibbs, SMYRC co-founder and former program manager; Robert Goman, Community volunteer & donor; LeAnn Locher, Q Center Founder/Former Board Member; Athen O’Shea, Tranz Guyz PDX Co-facilitator; Portland Trans March 2014 organizing committee; Lisa Watson, Community volunteer & donor, Cupcake Jones
              Advisory Committee
Sam Adams, Q Center Co-Founder; Cyreena Boston Ashby, Basic Rights Oregon Board Member; Kendall Clawson, first Q Center Executive Director; Jeana Frazzini, Basic Rights Oregon Executive Director; CM Hall, Basic Rights Oregon Board Member; John Halseth, Basic Rights Oregon Board Member; Bob Speltz, Q Center Founder/Former Board Member; Jackie Yerby, Basic Rights Oregon Board Member
Additionally, the center is undergoing a thorough financial audit, which was first reported by GoLocalPDX.”I have full confidence much will be uncovered,” says LeAnn Locher, Q Center spokeswoman. Basic Rights Oregon came through with a large infusion of cash to save the center from dire financial straits: “Basic Rights Oregon’s Board of Directors authorized a $30,000 gift to Q Center to help pay for employee health care coverage and current payroll. It also approved an additional $20,000 gift to help on-going operations of the Center, if needed. These resources were funded out of Basic Rights Oregon’s operating reserve, which the Basic Rights Oregon board has built over the last decade.”
PQ Monthly will continue to follow all aspects of this story as they develop.