Board Receives Annual Training, Recommits to Mission

The Board of Directors recently received training as part of an annual initiative to increase the OutCenter's capacity to fulfill its mission. During each year's training, each Board member learns how to better serve the OutCenter, and recommits to serving well. They are encouraged to reflect on what it really means to be a Board member: Why are they here? What can they do better? How can they help those who most need them? And are they truly, actively practicing their commitment to this organization and these people--their community--by doing the best they can and being the best they can be? We at the OutCenter thank the Board for advocating for accountability and seeing it through.

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Fear, Resilience, and Action: A Prayer Vigil for Orlando

As we are all painfully aware, 49 of our brothers, sisters, and non-binary siblings were lost during the early hours of June 12th, just a couple of weeks ago, in Orlando, FL. During these past weeks... days... hours... many of us have felt terror, anger, and confusion. Some of us may even feel shame or guilt for being who we are. While all of these reactions are valid and understandable, we at the OutCenter urge you to gather your families and communities close, stand firm during this hard time, and transform these painful feelings into something positive, meaningful, and healing. As George Henry Lewes, and English philosopher and critic, once wrote, "The only cure for grief is action."

We absolutely intend to take action, and we ask you to join us.

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OutCenter Spurs GSA Development in Local School

We would like to share a story of one of our community's recent successes, which we hope will warm your heart as much as it does ours:

Recently, a guidance counselor at a local school referred a student struggling to find LGBT+ community at their school to the OutCenter. They attended one of our Teen Pride Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) programs, and enjoyed it so much that they decided to create their own GSA at their school. With the help of OutCenter volunteers and school administrators, the school's GSA has thrived, growing from 3 members to 22 members in just a few short months. At the last meeting, the kids wrote notes to communicate the appreciation they have for their new community. A few of many have been included below. Please enjoy. (They're so cute!)

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Open Letter from LGBT+ Community Centers

An open letter from LGBT community centers on the Orlando shooting:

Our hearts break for the LGBT community in Orlando and for the families, friends, and loved ones of those who were killed. While we are still learning many facts about the shooting, one thing is clear: this attack targeted LGBT people, particularly the many LGBT Latinx people attending Latin night at the Pulse nightclub. As community center leaders, we see the vast work that remains to eliminate homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, racism, and many other forms of bigotry from our communities; after Sunday, what is visible every day to us has now become clear to all.

LGBT bars were the original community centers; they were often the place where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people could be themselves, find support, and meet other like-minded people. For over four decades LGBT community centers have been dedicated to creating safe spaces where people find sanctuary from hostility and find acceptance not available to them elsewhere. Like Pulse, LGBT community centers are places where people gather and build families of love.

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Gathering to Cope

To say it has been a tough week is a gross understatement. Since the massacre took place in a gay nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning, it has been all hands on deck at The OutCenter. To recap, our fearless leader and executive director, Mary Jo Schnell, was helping a community in Traverse City organize opening their own LGBT center. She made us all proud. She kept in touch with LGBT centers across the state and beyond and kept us all posted via FaceBook. OutCenter board members stepped in and organized a vigil for Sunday night that featured speakers Todd Dockerty, OutCenter board chair and the Reverend Eric Stricklin, UCC pastor. Forty-nine candles were lit in honor of each life lost and those who attended felt comfort and resolve to turn our outrage into action. The political rhetoric of those who vote against gay rights and against automatic gun control continues to infuriate us and their condolences ring hollow. We are buoyed by the bravery of Senators who filibustered through the night until a vote on gun control was agreed to. And we are grateful to a true Prince for putting his support behind the LGBT community.

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