Alternative report

Bloomington Beacon has released its first annual "Report to the Community" on the establishment of a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning (GLBTQ) citizens in south-central Indiana.

The report summarizes the mission, history, structure and community need for the center, as well as Bloomington Beacon's accomplishments over the past year and goals for the immediate future.

Excerpts from the report are published below.

The goal

Provide a safe, welcoming and positive space for GLBTQ people, their families and allies, in south-central Indiana, together with networks of support, human services, and educational, economic, and cultural opportunities.

Why a community center is needed

South-central Indiana lacks a community center for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning people and their families and allies.

The nearest to Bloomington is the Diversity Center in Indianapolis, which operates a Web site only, not a physical facility. The next closest are in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Local GLBTQ high-school students frequently complain that there are few safe, attractive places for them to socialize.

Members of Bloomington's transgender community have approached us about meeting space. Several local agencies say a GLBTQ community center would be a good place to do social-service and health-care outreach in Monroe County and surrounding counties.

And the lack of a visible town-based source for a variety of information hinders newcomers from identifying GLBT-friendly venues, social groups, churches, and services.

About 5-6 percent of school-aged teens nationally identify as sexual minority. There is growing recognition that inadequate family and community support may leave GLBTQ youth at greater risk than their heterosexual peers for suicide, alcohol and drug abuse, school drop-out, family conflict, homelessness, and HIV/STD infection.

The Bloomington Beacon Center

Bloomington Beacon Center is a project of Bloomington Beacon, Inc., a non-profit incorporated in 1997. Bloomington Beacon published a GLBT community newspaper from 1997 to 1999. Work to create a community center began in the summer of 2002.

In 2004, Bloomington Beacon launched its Web site, became a Donor Choice Agency with United Way Community Services, and joined the National Association of LGBT Community Centers and the Bloomington Nonprofit Alliance.

The center is a membership organization. Its operations are directed by a board and planned and executed by several committees open to non-board members.

Progress to date

Since summer 2004, Bloomington Beacon has made slow progress and suffered one significant setback in accomplishing its goals.

Web Site Development: The Beacon Web site was launched in May, 2004 ( ... ). Information pages and a yahoogroups list were among its original features. Added this past year were an Events Calendar, Photo Gallery, and links to advocacy organizations and research projects. Community Information pages are currently in development, focusing on youth, GLBT families, limited-English-proficient Latinos and newcomers.

Public Relations: Bloomington Beacon purchased a professionally designed logo and marketing package and developed a brochure and assorted handouts to publicize itself at Indy Pride 2004, PRIDE film festival, the 2d Annual Bloomington Pride picnic and an Open House reception at an office we rented. We obtained a toll-free telephone number.

Between phone calls and e-mail queries, we have responded to about 170 requests for information, assistance and membership since July 2004.

Programs and Services: We conducted (and continue to conduct) a survey to gauge local interest in a community center and particular services. Of the nearly 100 people who've answered our survey, 91 percent agreed with the statement "I feel that a GLBT Community Center is a much needed resource in this area."

The surveys indicate interest in: an environment offering coffee, refreshments and games, and with adequate parking, information bulletin boards, Internet lab, meeting space for GLBT groups, space for large events, support groups, HIV/AIDS testing and educational resources, youth services, a video/CD/book library, and a donated-goods store.

Resource Development: The original seed money for the Bloomington Beacon Center came from fundraisers held by Outspoken, a local lesbian social/philanthropic group. This past year, we raised money through special events, such as a rummage sale and a gift-wrapping session at Borders. Two donors provided a monthly stream of income, in addition to generous, one-time donations from others.

As a Donor Choice agency, we received small quarterly disbursements from United Way Community Services of Monroe County. For a needs assessment project, we wrote a Colin Higgins Foundation grant and obtained offers of in-kind donations from the IU Dept. of Applied Health Sciences and United Way Community Services of Monroe County.

The coming year

In the coming year, we plan to: complete and post several Community Information pages on the Web site; cultivate business sponsors; finish the needs assessment and publicize its results locally, launch the Youth Friendship Group, offer a series of public trainings, raise $50,000 to use for renting and maintaining an office, and move into a donated or rented space.

Bloomington Beacon is a Donor Choice Agency with United Way Community Services and a member of the National Association of LGBT Community Centers and the Bloomington Nonprofit Alliance.

The full report is available online at the Bloomington Beacon Web site: ...