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|YouthPride faces eviction; community volunteers organize to save services for LGBT youth|
|Written by Laura Douglas-Brown and Dyana Bagby|
|Thursday, 26 January 2012 13:51|
Two ad-hoc committees of community volunteers will try to assess the current financial and legal status of YouthPride and insure that at least some services for youth continue should Atlanta’s troubled LGBT youth agency close.
YouthPride has received an eviction notice for its current facility in Inman Park, Board Chair Jordan Myers told a group of LGBT leaders and allies who attended a meeting Jan. 25 at AID Atlanta convened by gay teacher Charlie Stadtlander to discuss the YouthPride crisis.
Myers said he could not recall the date the eviction would take place.
YouthPride leases its office from Inman Park United Methodist Church.
"There have been a number of missed monthly payments and we finally decided to work with a lawyer,” Rev. Matt Nelson told GA Voice on Thursday. “A [letter] of demand for payment and notice of default ... was initially served on Jan. 12."
Nelson directed further questions to the church's attorney, who could not immediately be reached for comment.
YouthPride’s financial troubles became public in December, when Myers posted on Facebook that the agency needed to raise $25,000 in one week, and Executive Director Terence McPhaul said YouthPride had to raise $40,000 by Dec. 31 or face closure in 60 days. Despite that deadline passing with only about $20,000 raised, YouthPride currently remains open.
The $40,000 sum would only bring YouthPride current on debts owed and did not include money needed to operate into the future, Myers said at the meeting Wednesday night — the first time he has answered questions about the organization, after refusing interviews and directing queries to McPhaul since the crisis began.
Funding is the “linchpin” to YouthPride’s problems, Myers said.
“As an organization we have felt underrepresented in the community and by the community,” he told meeting attendees, adding, “I see this meeting as an opportunity for YouthPride to actually get the community support we have wanted for so long.”
McPhaul told GA Voice on Monday he would attend Wednesday night’s meeting, but contacted Stadtlander by email shortly before the meeting was scheduled to start to say he would not come due to “having a meeting tonight with various sources,” Stadtlander said.
Myers was the only current YouthPride leader to attend. Former board members Jamie Ensley and Seth Persily came to the meeting, while Frances-Ann Moran participated by phone.
“I do not believe this is a meeting where we try to place blame,” Stadtlander said, explaining why he convened the invitation-only gathering of leaders and activists with other community organizations.
“This truly is about how can we move forward to save an organization so vital to our community,” he said. “The only way do that is come together as a community.
“If I’m frustrated and you're frustrated, the kids must be beside themselves,” he said.
The group decided to form two committees to help determine the future of YouthPride and services for LGBT youth in Atlanta. Both are to report back in 15 days.
The internal audit task force will focus on an “immediate assessment of YouthPride’s viability,” according to Stadtlander.
“This assessment will include, yet is not limited to, any and all financial activities, financial statements, programming, expenses, outstanding liabilities, pending litigation, Federal and State compliance issues, the possibility of success in developing a functioning Board, process necessary to form a Board, insurance coverage for Board members, actual empirical evidence of YouthPride's programs, staffing needs, budgets, etc.,” Stadtlander summarized in an email to meeting participants.
The committee will report back in 15 days and then “convene a meeting of interested LGBT leaders to present its findings and recommendations.”
Volunteering to serve on the Internal Audit Task Force are Stadtlander; Alison Hall, an internal auditor and board member of For the Kid in All of Us; Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta; attorney and former YouthPride board member Seth Persily; Tracee McDaniel, executive director of Juxtaposed Center for Transformation; Jamie Ensley, board chair for the Dogwood Festival, treasurer of Georgia Equality and former YouthPride treasurer; Patt Ciancuillo, a CPA and For the Kid board member; and Myers.
The programs task force “will be designed to examine and collaborate with partner organizations to ensure that the programs YouthPride currently offers will continue in some capacity, if at all possible, should the organization be forced to close or in the event of a restructuring,” Stadtlander noted.
Those who volunteered to serve on the Programs Task Force are Kathy Colbenson, executive director of CHRIS Kids; Josh Noblitt, social justice minister of St. Mark United Methodist Church; an AID Atlanta representative, and other community stakeholders that Colbenson will help identify.
Others interested in joining the committees can contact Stadtlander at [email protected]
Additional meeting attendees, out of a larger pool invited by Stadtlander, included Maggie Lopez, another board member of For the Kid in All of Us; former YouthPride board member Frances-Ann Moran; former YouthPride executive director Woodrow Leake; Julie Wood, a competitive intelligence analyst; and Chris Morter, a board member for the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and AID Atlanta.
All who attended participated as individuals, not in official capacities with the other organizations for which they volunteer.
YouthPride in disarray
Meeting attendees hit on the idea of an ad-hoc committee audit of YouthPride’s legal and financial status after questions posed to Myers at the start of the nearly two-hour meeting highlighted YouthPride’s current disarray.
In addition to not recalling the date of the upcoming eviction, Myers also did not immediately know the agency’s monthly operating expenses — despite the recent focus on the financial crisis.
Myers estimated it takes $8,500 to $10,000 to run YouthPride each month, though Stadtlander pointed out that McPhaul’s salary of $60,000 divided over 12 months and the agency’s $4,000 monthly rent would total $9,000 per month, before including salary for counseling director Tana Hall, utilities or other expenses.
Most of the agency’s funding comes from government and other grants, which may be in jeopardy, Myers said.
Myers said YouthPride was up-to-date on its IRS 990 non-profit tax returns, but did not have an explanation when Stadtlander presented him with the most recent return on file with non-profit tracker GuideStar.org — for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2009, received by the IRS on Aug. 16, 2010. Guidestar receives copies of 990s from the IRS and makes them available to the public.
Myers also said YouthPride has continued to receive an outside financial audit, but could not answer when asked by Ciancuillo, a CPA, whether the audit had come back “clean” or with deficiencies requiring corrections.
He initially hedged on the date of the most recent board meeting, which GA Voice has repeatedly asked for in the past, and offered a fourth version of who actually serves on the board of directors.
Three board members remain?
At the meeting, Myers said he had accepted a resignation from board member Randy New, leaving three people on the YouthPride board — Myers, Marlys Bergstrom and Theresa Willis.
Bergstrom previously told GA Voice the board had not met in two years and she knew nothing about the financial crisis and possible closure.
She was also not included in the most recent version of the YouthPride board posted on YouthPride’s website, the third such list since GA Voice began asking about the board members.
Asked Wednesday night for the date of the most recent board meeting, Myers initially said August 2011 — then acknowledged when questioned that the meeting consisted only of himself, Frances-Ann Moran and “someone on the phone” and did not have a quorum to officially conduct business.
He estimated the board last met in December 2010 or January 2011, while Moran put the date at December 2010.
Myers acknowledged he did not have an answer for why the board has not met in at least a year, which caused some participants to question whether the board still exists as a legal entity at all.
“It was erroneous, admittedly,” he said.
Despite sometimes heated questioning, the meeting ended on a positive note, with Myers agreeing that he and YouthPride staff would work with the community volunteers to assess the organization’s current state and how to make sure Atlanta’s LGBT youth are not left without support.
Several participants commended Myers for attending the meeting despite knowing he would face scrutiny.
“I felt shell-shocked walking in, but I feel better walking out,” Myers said.
UPDATE: Rev. Nelson of Inman Park UMC said the letter the church delivered to YouthPride was not an eviction notice but rather a demand for payment. Nelson said all questions regarding YouthPride's missed rent payments should be directed to the church's attorney.
Top photo: YouthPride Executive Director Terence McPhaul (file)
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