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2009 Top-Rated Nonprofit

True Colors, Inc.

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Civil Rights, Lesbian & Gay Rights, LGBTQ

Mission: True Colors works to create a world where youth, adults and families of all sexual orientations and gender identities are valued and affirmed. We challenge all forms of oppression through education, training, advocacy, youth leadership development, mentoring and direct services to youth and those responsible for their well-being.

Results: In 2009, True Colors Executive Director, Robin McHaelen was chosen by the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Lambda Legal Education and Defense fund as one of the two professionals to design and conduct a national master training program for child welfare professionals across the country. The training has been published by NASW and is available on the web as “Moving the Margins: Curriculum for Child Welfare Services with LGBTQ Youth in Out-of-Home Care.” In addition, True Colors staff trained more than 2,400 educators, social workers, clinicians, health care providers, students and others across CT.

Target demographics: LGBT youth, their families and the systems that support them.

Programs: True colors' annual conference began as a field work project for its founder and current executive director in 1994 and its now the largest and most comprehensive lgbt youth issues conference in the nation. More than 3,000 youth, educators, social workers, clinicians, family members and clergy participate in more than 150 workshops, films, activities and events over the course of the 2 or 3 day event. School groups participate from more than half of the communities in ct, from across the northeast and nationally. The conference is open to the public and provides up to 15 continuing education credits for professional participants.

the safe harbor project is a public/private partnership between true colors, the ct state department of children and the ct association of foster and adoptive parents targeting the unique concerns and needs of lgbt youth in out-of-home care. The safe harbor project's mission is to ensure the safety, support and nurturance of all children and youth, regardless of their race, inherent sexuality, gender identity or expression by ensuring culturally competent, unbiased and affirming service by all dcf staff and its contracted providers. The safe harbor project includes a state-wide, policy-focused task force that meets monthly; staff and provider training to approximately 400 youth-serving professionals annually; foster parent recruitment for adolescents regardless of their gender or sexuality as well as individual case consultation. We provide intervention and mediation on behalf of approximately 75 youth annually, resulting in the creation of new foster homes, staff development and improved services. We provide interventions and mediation on behalf of 150 youth in the mentoring program, but we also work with directly approximately 200 youth in the youth development program and train approximately 2,400 helping professionals per year.

true colors provides connecticut's only lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (lgbt) one-on-one and group youth mentoring program. Bringing the benefits of mentoring directly to nearly 100 youth from across the state of connecticut. In addition to one-on-one mentoring with trained and screened adults, this program provides weekly group activities such as game nights, movie nights, dances, etc. These activities provide participating youth the opportunity for healthly peer interactions and social development - sadly lacking for most of the youth we serve.

we work directly with approximately 200 youth in our youth leadership and gay/straight alliance (gsa) programming. This work includes the provision of on-site 6-week activist institutes, annual gsa summits; direct advocacy on behalf of lgbt youth in school based settings; and policy work with various state agencies. In addition, true colors provides cultural competency training for approximately 2400 professionals per year.

Community Stories

19 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

Donor

Rating: 5

I give to this organization because I believe in what they are doing and how they are helping our young people to grow, blossom, and just be the great people that they are. The staff is very dedicated to and I am happy to be able to contribute as I feel that they are very deserving.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

no words can ever describe what this group brings to the table! But for starters it provises , support, education , programs, consultations ,advocacy and all with a high level of skills and nurturence! You ca tell the folks who run it, work there and volunteer do it because they want to, are committed to the mssion and the do so selfishly

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been a mentor and involved with True Colors for a few years now and this organization is top notch in the quality of training, care and expertise offered to the children they protect, the community they serve and the public they seek to educate. As a mentor, I have extended myself and become a living, breathing, positive representation of a future for our LGBT youth. I have also heard stories and been witness to the resiliency of our youth, when given the right tools of love, support and affirmation for their existence.

Riley M.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

When I was 13, I was on the verge of suicide. I was the only lesbian student in my high school, and I took a lot of heat from the students and staff for it. My days were miserable, I was the victim of numerous hate crimes. In the spring of 2004, my school's Gay/Straight Alliance registered for the True Colors Conference. The conference was held at Central CT State University that year. I had no idea what to expect, I'd never been to the conference before. We pulled onto the campus at 8 o'clock that morning and my life changed forever. Within minutes of arriving, we were greeted by Robin, Nico, and the rest of the True Colors Staff. There were hundreds, if not thousands of GLBTQ youth gathered. I was in shock. Here I was, one girl from a small, conservative christian town, surrounded by all of these fantastic, carefree, very gay people. Two days later, I left the conference with a completly new mindset. I was not alone. I had resources, new freinds, and a self esteem boost that was responsible for me surviving my years in high school. Through True Colors, I found a place where I belonged. I found people just like me. I found resources who stood up for me, and helped me work with my school's administration to stop the bullying and hate crimes. Suddenly, in a matter of two days, I had all of the love and support that any scared, depressed, lonely 13 year old girl could ever need. I attended the True Colors Conference for 7 years. After graduationg high school, I presetned a few times at the conference too, as my way of giving back to the community that saved me. I'm 22 now, I live with my partner of a year and we're hoping to get married in 2014. I can honestly say, that without Robin and the rest of the folks at True Colors, I would not be here. Their love, dedication, kindness, determination, support, and hard work has made a difference in so many lives, not just mine. They bring together the most incredible people you'll ever meet, and they work to make the world a better place for the GLBTQ youth they serve. I owe my life to True Colors, and I know plenty of people who can say the same. That's what makes True Colors a GREAT Nonprofit.

4

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

As a therapist for children and adolescents I have often looked to True Colors to assist in many ways over the last 10 years. Robin and her staff are incredibly responsive and helpful. Robin has also done some training for myself and colleagues and no one leaves without an incredible amount of insight of how to assist all children and families. They are incredible.

34

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors is a group that has embraced the LGBTQI kids that get lost in the system. Few existing social organizations are able to fund or support programs where kids are labeled anything other than what society wants them to be. Many church groups can't handle LGBTQI youth because they have a need to change kids to what the church wants them to be, and when they can't- youth are cast away for having the courage to be themselves. True Colors embraces the youth of it's program. No one is told to be anything except themselves. The ability True Colors staff has to see each individual and treat their soul amazes me. If I had to name the number one service they provide- it would be acceptance tied with Love for first place. I decided to become a mentor for this very reason. I am impressed with the amount of community outreach True Colors does, from School GSA's, (which I might add provided youth with scholarship opportunities and information), to an amazing (yearly) national conference, to a variety of arts, entertainment, and spiritual groups. It is an honor to volunteer with this group!

35

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors provides and outstanding service to the youth that seek it out by supporting them and affirming their worth as individuals regardless of sexual orientation. Further, True Colors provides and outstanding service to all organizations in the state of CT that serve youth by advocating for lgbtq youth and assisting organizations in understanding the needs of such youth.

16

Donor

Rating: 1

True Colors is an organization that is dishonest as best. They fail to present both side of the issue of homosexuality to youth. The youth that they serve are very vulnerable and they come to programs run by this organization often with the question "What do I do? I think I might be gay." Youth served are always encouraged to explore the path of homosexuality rather than the path of heterosexuality or celibacy. The leadership of this group will not dare tell their clients that homosexuality may be a CHOICE! It's a shame that such a biased group has been allowed to have such an influence on our kids.

44

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

True Colors is a great, cutting edge organization which is devoted to improving the lives of LGBTQ youth. Not only do they provide direct services e.g. mentoring programs and the largest conference for and about LGBTQ youth in the country, but they also educate those who work w/ youth in a wide range of agencies.

41

Board Member

Rating: 5

True Colors, Inc., is an organization with one overriding goal. Provide LGBTQ, etc., youth, their families and allies with the tools and support needed to ensure that these youth grow up knowing the value they themselves bring to the world and that they can truly make a difference and be proud of who they are. As a board member and a long time advocate of True Colors, I have seen the group grow from being run out of a home to the small office space they now occupy, bursting to expand yet again. The annual Youth Conference, provides information and eduction to thousands of LGBTQ, etc., youth from middle school through college along with social workers and other youth oriented professionals. The conference is larger and more dynamic year after year. Other shining examples of their efforts are the Safe Harbor project run with the State of CT Dept of Children and Families, their LGBT mentoring program and their GSA progams. The staff and interns are truly dedicated and caring professionals and have been recognized nationally and locally as have many of their training and other programs. True Colors is working hard to increase their donor base and rely less on grant funding for programs and operating costs, to ensure fiscal stability and growth in years to come. The organization is poised to become a well recognized national player in support of LGBT youth.

48

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Having just moved to conneticut i dont know much about true colors, but i do know that this is a great organization and deserves this award. they have helped me personnally and many that i know. they are the soldiers for the lgbtq communitty and should be recognized for all that they do.

46

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors opened my eyes to the LGBT world. The 2007 youth conference helped me realize that you know it's okay to be proud. I don't have to hide or be in the shadows. True colors, INC has given me a voice and the courage to do great things in the LGBT commnity. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be sitting typing here. They have inspired me to do such great things and I'm extremely proud to know the peoplw who run True Colors, their volunteers, and the 100s of youth they inspire.

44

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have never seen an organization so intimately involved with their mission and so committed to the people they serve. Their tiny staff somehow finds a way to make an enormous difference for hundreds (thousands?) of LGBTQIA... kids in Connecticut and beyond every year. What makes True Colors different from many other organizations is the utter honesty with which they operate. They recruit dedicated volunteers by being unabashedly honest about what will be expected of them; they are honest with the kids they serve when helping them try to make the right decisions; and they advocate honesty in their community. With this honest approach, they pull off the biggest, greatest LGBTQI Youth Conference in the country. Going to that conference is like going home to the family you always wish you had. I am so proud to be involved with this organization. Every activity provides a first-hand account of lives being changed, if not saved.

44

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Any organization that aspires to serve adolescents had better have its act together, and True Colors has a very together act. Life ain't a cabaret, it's a three ring circus. True Colors handles its various programs and services with grace, joy, and professionalism, performing a juggling act while crossing a tightrope on a unicycle! It engages sexual minority youth, their families, their friends, and their allies and advocates. The True Colors annual conference is an astonishingly rich service to Connecticut, and the ongoing services that the True Colors organization provides (like adult/youth mentoring and mentoring training) are invaluable.

42

Volunteer

Rating: 5

The best non-profits are mission focussed with strong professional practices and standards and with healthy personal commitment from leadership and staff. While I have been around many good non-profits, I think True Colors may be the best of the lot.

30

Volunteer

Rating: 5

True Colors is officially a conference for sexual and gender minority youth. I suppose that's correct, but to me it's so much more than that. I first attended the conference when I was in high school, not so long ago. The next year I was in the fray, helping plan and volunteering. Working with True Colors has been my way of sharing the great fortune I've had in my life with youth who have not been so lucky. Many of the children who attend True Colors are not accepted for being who they are and the conference is one of the few places where they can really be themselves, and I think that is a beautiful thing.

31

Donor

Rating: 5

True Colors is an amazing organization. I happened upon the organization by chance - Kamora, director of the mentor program, sat and chatted with me during a non-GLBT event at which I was set to present. I was more excited about the mentor program than my event and followed up with Kamora about the organization later on. As a lesbian who made it through her teen years, I immediately thought of how different my life might have been had I the opportunity to have a GLBTQI mentor, a GSA, or a organization like TC. I then met Robin, executive director, and I learned of the myriad of services offered by TC and I was officially hooked. I joined the Board and became a mentor. The importance of the organization cannot be downplayed. Although our community has seen so much progress we have so far to go. Bullying of GLBTQI youth continues, suicide rates for our youth is up, and there are not enough support services for kids in this population. True Colors offers so much hope and support to Connecticut's youth each day. And once a year they go global and host the largest GLBTQI youth conference. If you haven't attended the conference you should - GLBTQI or an ally - it is amazingly empowering to sit in a room with 3000 GLBTQI and ally youth. Yes, I wish I had this organization when I was younger - I wish I had at least one person who then could have tole me what Robin, Kamora, Leah say each day to a kid - there is nothing wrong with you for being gay. To be involved with the organization is a blessing. True Colors gets my highest praise!

31

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been involved with True Colors for over 10 years. Their annual youth conference alone is possibly one of the most powerful experiences I have had in my lifetime (of over 50 years). True Colors works diligently to help LGBTQQII youth develop their self image and dignity. They give youth who often feel marginalized and on the fringe of their social circles a chance to be part of a thriving social network. Thru their year-round mentoring program, True Colors gives support to those young people who might otherwise be ignored and left to founder in the layers of bureaucracy. I applaud Robin McHaelan and her staff for thinking beyond their budgets, and structures, and capabilities to enabling the impossible to be done.

29

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

True Colors annual conference has expanded from from a small conference that was held at University of Hartford to a conference that attracts close to 3000 attendees at the University of Connecticut, many of them are professionals. They have added a third day to the conference just for professional working with LGBT youth. But they also have a mentoring program for LGBT kids. They work with to department of Children and Families to place LGBT youth with LGBT forester parents. In addition, True Colors is a member of the Anti-Discrimination Coalition working to pass a gender inclusive anti-discrimination law.