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|Ad-hoc committees try to help save YouthPride|
|Written by Dyana Bagby|
|Friday, 03 February 2012 00:00|
Gathered around a table at Avondale Pizza, several young people waiting for their food to arrive joked about school, the different haircuts they want and teased some friends who accidentally went to Savage Pizza down the street.
All utilize the services provided by YouthPride and say they are grateful for the agency and do not want it to disappear.
They understand the nonprofit is facing a financial crisis, can’t pay its rent and is dealing with administrative difficulties. Two community volunteer ad-hoc committees have formed to study YouthPride’s financial and programming viability and are scheduled to make a public report to the community on Feb. 8.
“It’s sad but at same time the people would find ways to continue on [if YouthPride] closed,” said Sean Hussey, 24, who identifies as transfeminine and is a computer science major at Georgia Tech.
Hussey began attending YouthPride’s TransandFriends discussion group last summer and also attends the Young Adult discussion group.
“But it won’t be in the same capacity. It won’t be as accessible to new people coming in if it’s not under one centralized place,” Hussey added. “It would be more of a network rather than one central place where teens can go for hope and be safe. It would be a lot more work.”
Hussey also questioned how YouthPride’s crisis came to be.
“How did the organization not see it coming and the community not take steps?” Hussey asked.
But Anthony Fleenor, 21, who identifies as transmasculine, doesn’t want to place blame on any person or the community.
“I don’t want to blame people. [YouthPride Executive Director] Terence [McPhaul] works really hard. I don’t feel the community betrayed us. The price of our place [rent] is too high. I wish Atlanta and our government valued us” by giving us funding, said Fleenor, a women’s studies major at Georgia State University.
SirJesse Beller, a YouthPride volunteer for 10 years who leads the TransandFriends discussion group, said he is not surprised by the nonprofit’s current crisis.
“I’ve seen three leaders come and go. I noticed a long time ago the board wasn’t meeting but had faith they were doing what was right,” he said.
But Beller wanted to know one thing — where were the youth in all the discussion of the future of YouthPride?
“YouthPride has always been about empowering the youth. Why are they [the committees] not asking them for help?”
Behind on rent, board in disarray
Founded in 1995, YouthPride’s goal is to provide a host of services for LGBT and questioning youth ages 13 to 24, including counseling, discussion groups, HIV testing and social activities.
YouthPride’s financial troubles became public in December, when Board President Jordan Myers posted on Facebook that the agency needed to raise $25,000 in one week, and 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.
McPhaul has said the agency did not receive $67,000 in grants from Fulton County and United Way this year, putting it in the straits it now faces.
The agency leases its space from Inman United Methodist Church and has fallen months behind in its rent, which McPhaul said is $50,000 a year.
“There have been a number of missed monthly payments and we finally decided to work with a lawyer,” Rev. Matt Nelson told GA Voice. “A [letter] of demand for payment and notice of default ... was initially served on Jan. 12.”
YouthPride’s board of directors has also fallen into disarray and has not met in over a year, violating its own bylaws. According to the bylaws, provided to GA Voice by YouthPride, the board of directors of is supposed to meet monthly with annual meetings in September and have a minimum of five members. But the YouthPride board has perhaps three current members and hasn’t met since at least December 2010, despite the LGBT youth agency facing possible closure.
According to YouthPride bylaws:
• The board shall exist of at least five directors and a maximum of fifteen directors.
• Regular monthly meetings of the board will be held at a time and place to be decided by the board. These and all meetings shall be open to the public, except those executive sessions, if required, in order for the board to consider matters affecting confidentiality.
• The annual meeting of the board shall be held in September.
YouthPride currently has three board members, 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 listed board members as Theresa Willis, Marlys Bergstrom and himself, though he said he had stayed on past the end of his term.
Bergstrom, who said she was unsure she was even considered a board member, told GA Voice the YouthPride board had not met in two years.
GA Voice asked for a copy of YouthPride’s most recent audit and received documents for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2009, and also included through Dec. 31, 2009. As of Sept. 30, 2009, the audit showed YouthPride in the hole for $22,869, but as of December 2009, the agency was in the black with $17,055.
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 ― the first time he has answered questions about the organization, after refusing interviews and directing queries to McPhaul since the crisis began.
GA Voice had repeatedly asked for an accurate list of YouthPride’s board members and the date of their last board meeting.
Funding is the “linchpin” to YouthPride’s problems, Myers said at the invitation-only meeting of community leaders.
“As an organization we have felt underrepresented in the community and by the community,” Myers 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.”
The meeting resulted in the formation of two ad-hoc committees of community volunteers who 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.
The internal audit task force will focus on an “immediate assessment of YouthPride’s viability,” according to Stadtlander.
Those volunteering on the Internal Assessment and Viability Task Force are Alison Hall, internal auditor and president-elect of For the Kid in All of Us; Patt Cianciullo (co-chair), CPA and treasurer of For the Kid in All of Us; Jamie Ensley, SBA officer at Wells Fargo, chair of the Dogwood Festival, past treasurer of YouthPride and current treasurer of Georgia Equality; Tracy Elliott, executive director of AID Atlanta; Adam Rimes, CPA; Steve Ritchie, the former President of YouthPride prior to Frances-Ann Moran; and Charlie Stadtlander, Dekalb County School high school teacher and board member of AID Atlanta.
Hall and Cianciullo are chairs of this committee.
Volunteering on the Youth Program Task Force are Kathy Colbenson, CEO of CHRIS Kids; Josh Noblitt, minister of social justice at Saint Mark United Methodist Church; Lamont Scales, prevention programs manager at AID Atlanta; and Seth Persily, attorney and former board member of YouthPride.
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.
Anyone interested in joining the task forces should email Stadtlander at [email protected]
The committees plan to make their research public at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 8 at the offices of CHRIS Kids.
Top photo: YouthPride may be forced to leave its location in Inman Park due to unpaid rent. (by Dyana Bagby)
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