Whose center is it anyway?
I can vividly recall the angst all of us marchers felt as we put ourselves out there on the streets to be ridiculed, spit-on and harassed during some of the first L.A. Gay Pride Parades; originally on Hollywood Boulevard, then, later in West Hollywood (still then the City Of Los Angeles) on Santa Monica Boulevard. Men and women marching together with one common aim, to gain legitimacy as a movement and be afforded some shred of dignity and respect as a community.
Our goal in those early years was merely to get through the parade unscathed-this was the best we could hope for. While we marched we could only watch helplessly as those taunting us from the side lines threw eggs, sodas and would indiscriminately pluck someone from the crowd to rough up. Both the L.A. police (under Chief Davis) and West Hollywood Sheriff's department in those days would look the other way, and even sometimes join in on the beatings. If you even tried to help you'd be arrested on some vague charge, so you just marched ahead, seeing the finish line down at the end of the Boulevard and wondering if you'd make it there alive.
Those are the memories I have of working for the dignities, legislation and federal funding we enjoy today as a gay, lesbian and transgender community. This is the memory of most gays and lesbians that are still around from those early days; maybe always still a little fearful that those rights could still snatched back at any time. When the first Gay Center on Highland Avenue in Hollywood opened its doors in October of 1971 it was a place everyone in the gay, lesbian and transgender community could come and feel safe and be amongst friends. It struggled financially for years to keep its doors open and because of such, needed to bring everyone in the community into the fold. We needed each other back then, if not only for support, for a place other than the clubs to network and exchange ideas.
The current Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Center, now a huge billion-dollar venture (thanks to your support) with numerous property and other holdings has grown financially, but it no longer is a center where everyone is welcome nor valued. As a senior who was recently "banned" from utilizing the services at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center, I know this to be true first-hand. Had I known while marching down those dangerous streets back in the 70's that what I was supporting would become simply a shell of its former self (nothing more than a "business model"), I might have done things differently.
A couple of months back, while at the center I witnessed a serious security breach that put several African-American Transgender kids from the youth center in danger for their lives. I not only became personally involved, but reported it to upper management. I was ashamed to learn the safety and well-being of our center kids are not priority one within the Lorri Jean (CEO) administration at the Center. Maybe it's because the kids were African-American that it wasn't important, or was it because they were Transgender, or maybe because it didn't fit into the Jean Administration agenda. I don't know. I do know that anyone who questions those at the helm are dismissed, over-ruled and considered the enemy.
Now I don't know whose center this is, but it's certainly not what I sacrificed and put my life in danger to support. It has become nothing more than an officious and sterile group of facilities that no longer even attempt to provide a welcoming, supportive, nor nurturing environment. It's sad that all our federal funding is lumped into this one organization and those who are excluded (ex-communicated) by the Jean Administration are out of luck. As far as I'm concerned, we, as a community have been hijacked by these people who view the center as a money-making venture. I plan to attend the next session of the Board of Director's to make my views known, but doubtfully it will change anything. How sad for us as a community, that this is what all of our hard work has produced.
The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center is largely a public relations-driven organization. It's shiny public face masks a brittle financial status that could lead to its dissolution over a very short period of time. The organization employs a dedicated staff, but refuses to leverage its experience and insights in favor of a sycophantic upper management layer which simply exists to rake in substantial paychecks. The organization's refusal to post 990s on its website should be a warning to all potential donors. Oh, and several of the other reviews listed here are from board members and senior management without appropriate attribution.
Review from CharityNavigator
When I read the posting about the Center not being "discreet" about the names on its list, it concerned me (and it was the only negative review out of all the others--one of which was mine). I had never experienced any problems with them. So, I called their fundraising department and I was told that they take very seriously how they handle donor information and try always to comply with what donors want. They also told me they have hundreds of thousands of names in their donor database and that occasionally mistakes get made. But, they said that problems happen very rarely. Like I said, they've always been very responsive to any requests I've made. Most of all, they provide services that are invaluable to needy people, like homeless LGBT youth. I can forgive a mistake in consideration of that. Finally, I'm glad the Center doesn't closet their fundraising mailings (just like a lot of LGBT charities I support). That's a great example to set.
I have been a donor to the Center for about 17 years. I support them so loyally for several reasons. First, they provide a broader range of really important programs than any LGBT organization I know, including a residence for homeless LGBT youth, seniors programs, crystal meth prevention and recovery services, and an AIDS medical clinic. Second, they are exceedingly well managed. Not only is their top staff very impressive but they have a VERY low overhead rate (below 15%, which is pretty extraordinary). They are perofessional in every way. And, on top of all of that, I love their policy work. They are a great voice for our community.
This organization's fundraising operation is not discreet about donor requests/information. I gave a donation ($250) recently in support of a friend who was in a volleyball tournament, and I made it explicitly clear that I not be on any mailing lists (with my donation and post-calls to the fundraising dept), that I not be included in any publication materials, etc. and that my information not be in any databases. (My reluctance of donating to any organization is that my information will be sold and/or used to phone me at all hours, email me, or fill my mailbox with wasted paper and asinine marketing ploys to garner additional donations.) Even after my numerous instructions, requests, etc., LAGLC sent a USPS-mailed newsletter to me at my home address! I had to call again to make sure they removed me. I reminded the person I spoke to that I wanted no additional contact. I was assured, yet again, that I was off all lists. But, alas, today I receive an email thanking me for supporting the volleyball event and telling me how I could learn more about the center. I can't image what someone still in the closet would think if he/she supported a gay, out-friend by donating to LAGLC and then LAGLC contacted the donor at home via a newsletter (no envelope or wrapping). It is insensitive at least and could ruin lives at worst, even in 2010. Very disappointed.
This center is by far the greatest as far as quickness and helpfulness. I have been able to get diagnosed, treatment and all support within 36 hours of me making a phone call. As with most non-profits, you the client must do your homework as well, but I think this center is doing an Outstanding job at providing the services it has to offer. It would be a great dishonor to remove this center and/or remove funding from any of its services.
I am constantly amazed at the impact the Center has on our community---locally, regionally and even internationally. To describe the services of the Center has always been a challenge because of the broad spectrum of services the Center addresses. However, I am particularly impressed with the Center's efforts on behalf of the youth in our commumnity: from saving them from the streets to assisting them in developing the leadership skills they will need to be the next generation of activists. I am also extremely pleased to see the Center's progress in addressing the growing needs of the GLBT senior community---a community we are all going to be a part of! Hats off to an exceptional organization that positively changes the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year!
The Family Services Program of the LA Gay and Lesbian Center has been a vital connection for our family! It has enabled our kids to be raised amongst a village of caring adults and to know other families like their own. Our involvement with the program over the last 7 years has ranged from social activities, camps, and day trips to cultural vents to parent and baby groups to parenting courses to college financial planning and pride parades. The experience always leaves us feeling cared for and part of a larger community. Our kids have used the staff members names as part of common family discussions and there is something to be said for really feeling accepted and understood in a way that is not always present in our daily lives as parents in traditionally heterosexual settings! Keep up the fantastic work!
My family has been participating in the Family Day in th Park, Rainbow Family Camp, Gay Pride Parade march with Family Services and Neighborhood Family Days for the past six years. Before that, my partner and I attended the Maybe Baby meetings to learn about how we could create our family. I hadn't realized what an integral part of our lives this organization has been! I value the connection that this organization has helped us to maintain to the gay & lesbian community. Our kids have made relationships with the dedicated staff who have been there for years. Our family feels valued by these people with a level of understanding that is hard to come by in the mainly heterosexual community in which we live. Not only do they provide a community in which we belong, but they motivate us to get involved, and stay involved. We are truly lucky to have the Family Services Program as a part of our family! Thank you!
This is the most fantastic organization I've ever been a part of. The staff and leadership's dedication to the community is inspiring. They have truly become a community center here in Los Angeles. I have been on their Aids LifeCycle fundraiser three years now, and each time it is always one of the most amazing weeks of my life, not to mention one of the most well-organized and run money raisers I've ever been a part of.
I have been so amazed by what an incredible group of people are on the board of the Center. They are incredibly enthusiastic, objective, knowledgable and very involved with what is going on the community. I have learned so much over the last couple of years and even though I am extremely busy my experience has really given me the tools to be more involved. Every time I hear Lorri Jean speak I think she is my hero! We all get caught up in our busy lives, yet the work that is being done for the community by the Center is so important that I felt I had to carve out time to join the board. I am so completely inspired by what the Center does and so thankful that I am a part of what they are doing! Susan Feniger
This organization and the CEO are exactly what our community needs. The L.A. Center and Jeffrey Goodman Clinic are the flagship organizations that should be copied all over the country, especially here in San Diego. Lori Jean, you're a true angel!
My experience with the Center is long and quite fulfilled. I have been a client of the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic at the LA Gay & Lesbian Center for nearly 10 years now. I first went to the Center seeking some guidance and really did not take care of myself. When I was ready to face my illness, I was 125 pounds with 16 t-cells! My doctor was on it. I was brought back to good health and had the full support of all the staff. The staff are always cheerful and glad to see me. The pharmacy is always patient with me when I want to know everything about what it is I'm taking.
In addition to the awe-inspiring speeches provided by CEO, Lorri Jean, the wide range of services provided by the LA Gay & Lesbian Center touch every aspect and demographic of our community: from Crystal Meth Recovery and other mental health offerings, to free and mobile HIV testing, counseling and education, to senior support services, a homeless youth shelter, the list just goes on and on and on. I have been fortunate in that I have not had to depend on the life changing and life saving services provided by this organization but I have the assurance that this organization is there for me should the need arise and is definitely providing a tremendous service to those within the community. This is why I give generously to this organization, far above any other organization in the community.
I've just begun taking the Coming Out Workshop for women. Actually, I've only attended one workshop so far. I wasn't sure what to expect, but feel confident, in just that one meeting, that I've found the place in which I can discover where I'm headed in life and who I'm truly meant to be.
I have been working with seniors for nearly 15 years as a professional social worker and have never seen such a dedicated program helping GLBT seniors as the one offered by the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center. It breaks my heart to think of all the GLBT seniors that feel that they must go back into the closet to receive community services. Now there is a place for them to be who they are. The entire Senior Program team is so committed to making a difference in our seniors’ lives. I wish every city throughout the United States could have such a great program.
The LA Gay and Lesbian Center's Family Services Program has done so much for our family. After my partner and I had our daughter, we found that we were the minority in all parent and me groups (MOMS Club, Gymboree, Music Together) or the only lesbian family. It was a matter of "coming out" again and again, sometimes with positive results and sometimes with negative ones. The Center's Family Services Program provided the Baby Bonanza group, a free weekly group for GLBT parents and their 0-2 year old babies and toddlers. The group was incredibly supporitve and well run. The facilitators of the group were an excellent example of young professionals dedicated to helping GLBT families feel included and empowered. They provided a safe and clean environment, wonderful toys, a fabulous "banana and water bar" for the young ones to learn how to socialize, eat, and begin to follow rules, a song participation time, and birthday celebrations. The Family Services Program also provides monthly family events in the community with games, food, guest speakers and entertainers, and multiple events throughout the year which are either low cost or free! The Kid Bonanza group was created for parents and their 2-5 year olds, and many other communities have copied these programs in order to create similar groups for local GLBT families, something that did not exist in the past. We always had a place to go in order to meet other GLBT families and feel supported and rewarded for creating unique families of love. The Gay and Lesbian Center has many programs for the community, and we were very grateful to be able to participate in and be served by the Family Services Program. I can't imagine how much more isolated and alone we would have felt without this service, and without the care of the wonderful staff people. We have made friendships that will last throughout our children's childhoods and hopefully even longer. I highly recommend this agency for the Pride Choice Contest.