Our Center, which opened at the end of April 2016, is the area’s only community center dedicated to providing support and services specifically for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) community. The center has welcomed just over 3,000 unique visitors through its doors in just six months of being open at its new location in Midtown at 1745 S. Wells Ave.
Officially known as Build Our Center, the organization is a 501(c)3, non-profit. The mission of the organization is to establish and maintain a safe, empowering, and supportive center in northern Nevada that addresses advocacy, education and services for the LGBTQ community. Since its inception, the organization has raised funds to support their objective of opening and sustaining a community center.
With ongoing efforts to fundraise, donors and volunteers are always needed, especially due to the significant growth in our area and the ever-increasing responsibility to provide services, support groups, and outreach to those who might be in need. In order to help address this, Our Center has become a meeting location for other community organizations and independent support groups who just want a safe, comfortable space to hold their meetings. One standout chapter, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), meets monthly on the third Wednesday, for example. This method has served to supplement programming while Our Center continues to raise money and resources to expand services.
Our Center is open Tuesdays through Saturdays. Some of the most popular weekly groups include the youth group, HOMIES (Hands-On Movement Including Everyone), which meets each Wednesday and Saturday in the Youth Space at Our Center. Recovery groups are open to the public and meet each Wednesday and Friday evening.
Another informative and popular workshop occurs on a monthly basis, with Safe Zone and Diversity training. Facilitated by TMCC’s Equity and Inclusion office, both are free and open to the public. These workshops advocate for awareness of LGBTQ individuals and the need for equal rights and respect. In addition, they aid in creating inclusive environments in offices, businesses, and the community at-large. The next Safe Zone workshop will be Tuesday, Dec. 13, from 6-8 p.m. at Our Center.
These are only a sampling of the much larger calendar, which is put out monthly and boasts more than 60 activities on any given month. The organization aims to provide a medley of groups, meetings, and activities to highlight and cater to the diversity that composes the LGBTQ community and its allies. You can visit Our Center’s website at www.OurCenterReno.org for the complete calendar and regular updates.
With a solid foundation being built at Our Center, the organization continues to focus on LGBTQ youth by serving as an event organization for the area’s Homeless Youth Point-In-Time Count. 2017 will be the third year that Build Our Center has served as an event organizer with Nevada Youth Empowerment Project. Nationally, LGBTQ youth represent 40 percent of the homeless youth population compared to composing only 7 percent of overall youth population. Although not as high as national statistics, roughly 23 percent of our area’s youth identify as LGBTQ.
The objective is to count sheltered and unsheltered homeless youth on a single night in January. The Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates a survey of homeless people every year. This data is ultimately used to develop and fund housing and supportive programs for those in need. This year, the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project and Build Our Center, will coordinate the Jan. 28 event on behalf of the Reno Area Alliance for the Homeless. Reno Initiate for Shelter and Equality (RISE) will coordinate the clothing distribution. The 24-hour event will target homeless youth, and it will take place at the West Street Plaza (First and West Streets). It begins promptly at midnight on Jan. 28 and will end at 11:59 p.m. This year, kids can also get counted at the YOUth Drop-In Center from 10-5 p.m.
The significance of this event is emphasized each year, as there has been an 80 percent increase in the number of youth surveyed and provided donated items from 44 in 2014 to 99 in 2016. Through the count, youth can learn of potential resources within the community and local organizations and public entities can better plan to provide services.
The most important question is how you and your business can get involved. Our youth and organizations depend on your assistance and generosity. Your donation to the event plays an important role in supporting these disconnected young people. Whether it’s a contribution of dollars, items, or services, your gift has a direct impact on the life of homeless and at-risk youth. Support opportunities include recognition as a donor on websites and through media outreach.
Donations are graciously accepted to cover the costs of onsite expenses such as propane heaters, portable toilets, sorting bins, games, art supplies, city fees, truck rental, tents, and other equipment. Please contact Meredith Tanzer at Meredith@OurCenterReno.org with your commitment or come by Our Center to drop off donated items.