The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives in unimaginable ways. Our work, schools, relationships, and our individual well-being have all suffered. I’m very proud that at the Sacramento LGBT Community Center we have not only persevered through these challenges, but thrived. We adapted services like offering telehealth counseling sessions and at-home HIV tests, changed our fundraising strategies to focus less on events and more on building relationships with donors, and rapidly jumped in to help end the pandemic by offering COVID testing, vaccinations, food deliveries, and financial assistance for those in need.
No one can say for certain what the future holds, but as unemployment benefits run out, eviction moratoriums end, and the government stops providing financial aid to working LGBTQ+ people and local government, there will remain a continued increase in the need for Center services. Unfortunately, the pandemic hasn’t been the only stressor in our lives. We’ve endured political unrest, racial inequity, widening economic inequality, wildfires, unprecedented weather events, and personal health, relationship, and family challenges. In my own life, as I begin to mentally process everything that has happened to me over the last two years, I was easily overwhelmed by the weight of it all. For the first time, I started seeing a therapist as a self-care practice, which has helped immensely and I highly recommend for everyone to seek professional mental health care, if they are able to, including the services offered at the Center.
As new young people come into our 24-hour shelter, stop by the Q-Spot Youth drop-in Center, or log on to our virtual pop-up events, I’m reminded how important it is that the Center is here for them, especially during the pandemic when so many of us have felt isolated and alone. I’m proud that the Center has been able to expand our mental health programs to include free counseling services and launch a new Economic Justice Program to support sustainable employment and financial empowerment for LGBTQ+ people. We’ve expanded our advocacy work, working to advance LGBTQ+ public policy and conducting cultural humility trainings for various organizations as we aim to create safer and more affirming workplaces, schools, and healthcare institutions. In fact, using digital platforms, the geographic reach of this program has increased beyond the region to include the Oakland Athletics!
With community health and safety as our top priority, we again made the difficult decision to cancel most of our in-person events this year including the Sacramento Pride March and Festival. Instead, we hosted a small family friendly drag show and an LGBTQ+ affirming career fair in our parking lot, and celebrated the grand opening of our new Marsha P. Johnson Center South location in South Sacramento. We collaborated with more than 20 partners in the community that hosted their own Pride Month events including Pink Wednesday nights at the Sawyer’s Revival Lounge, DOCO Pride, Sacramento Republic FC Equality Night, OARS Adventures Pride rafting on the American River, a Pride Ride in Natomas, Rainbow Skate Night at Roller King, and many more. We’re happy to report that some partners will continue to host these throughout the year!
To highlight Pride month in the absence of big crowds on Capitol Mall, we partnered with the CA LGBT Legislative Caucus and Capitol Association to light up the Capitol Building in rainbow lights along with other landmarks around the city as a public display of LGBTQ+ visibility and inclusion. We miss seeing folks in-person and look forward welcoming you back to gather with us again next year. Internally at the Center we further settled into our new building in Lavender Heights at the corner of 20th and J Streets including the installation of a new rooftop solar array that will reduce our carbon footprint and offset operating costs.
This new facility will allow us to expand programs and increase accessibility. Since the start of the pandemic, we have welcomed five new board members and 14 new staff positions, adding to the diversity, expertise, and service capacity of the Center’s team. We also continue to make progress on our journey to become a more actively anti-racist organization through our Racial Equity Initiative, working with a consultant and a newly formed racial equity committee to create a series of trainings for staff and board members and complete a racial equity survey.
As challenging as the last 18 months have been for all of us, we are still in this together. I am very grateful for the thousands of people who have stepped forward to donate, volunteer, and send us encouraging words as we continue to rise to meet this moment and respond to continued unprecedented adversity.
I know that we will come out of this period in our history stronger than ever and I look forward to sharing our plans in the coming months. Thank you for your support in this endeavor to create a region where LGBTQ+ people thrive.