Fresno’s only physical LGBT community center has closed its doors, citing the difficulty in keeping its all-volunteer organization afloat.
Run by Gay Central Valley president Chris Jarvis, the Fresno LGBT Community Center, now at 1067 N. Fulton Street, opened in 2010 as the first for the LGBT community in Fresno in 20 years, according to Jarvis. In a letter dated Saturday, the center announced the closing and said Gay Central Valley, formed in 2009, will also be ceasing operations by the end of the year.
“Issues such as funding, staffing, volunteer/leadership changes and our ongoing philosophy of an all-volunteer organization (where no one receives compensation and all money raised is funneled back into the community) presented ongoing challenges,” the letter read. “… We sincerely hope that vital works such as the community center, The Rainbow Delegation and Cultural Competency Training Outreach will be taken on by other organizations.”
Jarvis said he doesn’t think another LGBT community center will pop up anytime soon, but he believes other organizations will provide resources now that the center is gone.
While the center is already closed, Jarvis said support groups it houses such as HIV positive and transgender will have access to the building through Sept. 1. Jarvis said he hopes agencies nearby will step up to provide homes for these groups after that.
The center also ran an after-hours phone line for those in crisis, and was a resource hub to point people to services. The organization also took part in social and political events, published websites and blogs and credits itself with hosting the most successful one-day LGBT fundraiser in Fresno history, No H8 in 2012.
Jarvis and longtime leader and secretary Kaylia Metcalfe-Armstrong will be on hand to provide support in the closing days, and the website and phone number will be available until at least the end of the year for those in crisis.
“While we are stepping away from the organization, we want to assure everyone that we are not stepping away from the community,” the letter read.
According to its website, the center took 250 phone calls, 80 visitors and hundreds of email inquiries a month, in addition to welcoming support groups over 30 times a month.
Common Space, a nonprofit hub in downtown Fresno, could fill some of the voids, said founder and executive director Justin Kamimoto. “Through My LGBT Plus, a program of Common Space, we will strive to use our space to continue hosting more LGBT+/queer events and support groups,” he said. “The Fresbians utilize our space for coffee hour socials, and Trans-E-Motion began using our space to host events and support groups in the past few months.” Kamimoto said the closing of the center saddens his staff. “Our philosophy is to have more spaces available” for the LGBT community.
Jarvis said the decision to close was hard, and he fought against it at first. “Now board members have decided to go live their lives,” he said. “It’s a heavy commitment,” he said of the volunteer work the staff at the center takes on. “Most can’t do it.”
The Merced LGBT Community Center shuttered its doors in January after three years, citing similar problems. Jarvis said the Fresno center mentored the Merced one until it got on its feet, but it had no part in its closing.
The Fresno center plans to donate what’s inside including appliances, furniture and office and pride supplies to local community organizations. Financial donations will be given to nonprofits in Fresno that support the LGBT community, Jarvis said. Anyone interested in requesting donations can email the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org by Aug. 15.
“I hate that the center is closing,” Jarvis said. “This isn’t a decision we came to overnight. This is a very time-consuming volunteer job, but we have lots of strong leaders in this community that are not going to abandon the LGBTQ community.”