By Jacob Engels
Below is a Q&A with GLBT Community Center of Central Florida’s Executive Director, Randy Stephens.
Who was behind getting The Center off the ground?
The Center was started as a crisis hotline for gay men in 1978 and is the oldest, continuous GLBT organization in the State of Florida. Through the years, The Center has continued to add service and support for the entire Central Florida Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community. Formerly known as Gay Community Services, The Center was incorporated in 1981 and has been located at its present location for over ten years.
What is the purpose of The Center?
As taken from The Center’s website our main purposes are as follows:
- To serve as a sanctuary for all GLBT people.
- To provide programs and services that empower, educate, and entertain the GLBT community, and to strengthen the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, and spiritual well-being of GLBT people through these programs and services.
- To build strategic alliances for the purpose of increasing influence, improving effusiveness, and strengthening relationships between the GLBT community and the broader public.
- To celebrate our differences by fighting discrimination, inequality, oppression, and injustice.
What is your involvement with The Center?
As the Executive Director this is my only job, and I am involved in everything that happens in the center; from the mundane task of purchasing more paperclips to the big decisions such as what issues to address in the community. My main focuses, however, are overseeing the free HIV testing we have 7 days a week; supporting over 25 groups we have that meet here on a weekly basis and speaking with and coordinating with the vast number of business donors. I also have a great staff of volunteers and workers who act as the cogs in this machine and help me to keep it running smoothly.
How is The Center funded?
The Center is funded by donation. This could come from events that we hold in the community to memberships with us. Membership with the Center is our lifeblood, it is what keeps the doors open and the lights on. We have a number of tiers of membership and those along with the pricing can be found on the website.
We hold numerous events every month here at the center as well as around the city. We try and work with local businesses as well to plan events, such as our upcoming event: “The Frat Games” being held at Ivanhoe Village’s newest bar The Hammered Lamb. We also just recently held events at both Savoy: Customer Bartender event and Parliament house: Wanzie’s Big Fat Variety Show. For a full list of events visit the Center’sWebsite or Facebook page.
We also just had a very successful event in January with our newly elected state, county and city officials. It was a meet in greet between Orlando’s governmental bodies and the LGBT community in which the Elected Officials acknowledged our support and we were able to ask questions of them.
We also had a great open house last month in which several of the local LGBT groups were able to meet members of other groups who call The Center home. At the same event, we re-dedicated the David Bohnett CyberCenter in which we celebrated the $13,000 upgrade to the Cyber Center by the David Bohnett Foundation. It was a great way for people to come, mingle and get to know the center and its staff. This is one of the many open houses we have here at the center and we are currently looking into having more in the coming month. Make sure to check the website and Facebook page so that you do not miss any of them!
What are the goals of The Center?
Our goals revolve around two main concepts: Awareness and Assistance. We are dedicated to the idea of spreading Awareness to the community regarding LGBT issues. Our hope is that, one day, everyone regardless of the sexual orientation, nationality, creed or any other minority status will be treated as equals. We believe that we can come to this point through the spread of information and touching as many people as possible.
We are also dedicated to assisting those in the LGBT community that are in need. We have great programs that meet weekly at the center such as: AA wake up call, Men and Women in transition, Living and Thriving with HIV/AIDS and even a Senior Social. We are an open door for assistance of this community and we will always strive to do the best we can for everyone, but especially the LGBT people of Orlando.
How has the response been so far? How can people get involved?
The response of the community has been phenomenal; people are really starting to come together for the betterment of their fellow LGBT peers. We have also had a great response and support from the straight community of the city with allies adding their backing to our cause.
If people would like to get involved they can contact us via the center website or Facebook page. We are always looking for good volunteers to help us out with the events and daily operations of the center.
What kind of services does The Center provide?
We have a number of services that we provide at the center, most of which can be accessed free of charge. One of our best services is the Free rapid HIV testing that we have at the center 7 days a week. This service is available to anyone who feels the need to get tested. In fact there is a video on our website that explains the need and process for HIV testing. We also offer legal advice once a month free of charge. Couples and singles can come for consoling 4 days a week for $20 an hour and $30 for couple; if an individual cannot afford the fee The Center will waive it, we will never turn someone in need away. You can find a full list of our services on the website.
PS- If would like to have a community center, non profit, or charitable organization profiled like the one above, email us at info@eastorlandopost with their information.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post. Along with the Post, he owns several other businesses and is currently enrolled at Valencia College. Jacob has lived in Avalon Park since it’s founding and enjoys playing with his black Labradoodle Japser, listening to indie rock, and seeking out new business ventures. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.