The Center Announces the Resignation of Executive Director Randy Stephens after 5 Years of Exemplary Service To The Orlando LGBT Community

Randy Stephens Executive Director The Center Orlando GLBT Community Center of Central FloridaThe GLBT Community Center of Central Florida announces the resignation of Randy Stephens, the organization’s Executive Director. Board President Timothy Vargas said, “We recognize Randy’s contributions to The Center, including a major effort to save the Center from the brink of closure in the early half of the decade, overseeing the development and growth of the Board of Directors, and overseeing a series of successful initiatives focused on organizational realignment, cost reduction and process effectiveness. These changes have helped establish a solid foundation for The Center and we thank Randy for his dedication and years of service to the organization.”

The GLBT Community Center will begin a search to hire a new Executive Director immediately.

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The GLBT Community Center Applauds Equality Florida And Six Couples For Challenging Florida’s Law Against Marriage Equality

Center LogoThe Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Florida (The Center) is celebrating a major milestone in our path towards full equality for our community with the announcement of a court challenge to the Florida laws that prohibit marriage equality.  This is a major step for our state and follows on the progress of major initiatives throughout the nation at the federal, state, and local government levels to ensure equality and liberty for all.

In recent months, numerous courts in several states have either granted the right for same sex couples to marry or struck down state laws banning same sex marriage.  Court rulings in Utah and Oklahoma have paved the way for our own state organization, Equality Florida, in conjunction with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, to file a formal complaint with the State of Florida. While the path here in Florida will be a unique one, precedent has been set at the federal level thanks to the Windsor Case ruling of the United States Supreme Court, and its interpretation within the lower Circuit Courts.  The Center has seen a watershed of support from disparate members of Central Florida, and we are firm in our conviction that equality for all citizens is in our near future.

Our community and its leaders believe strongly that Article I, Section 27 of the Florida Constitution, which bars the State of Florida from recognizing marriage or civil unions unless it consists of the union ofone man and one woman, is wholly unconstitutional and violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution. In addition, two Florida Statutes also include similar language that prohibit state recognition of LGBT marriages, and these will also be challenged in this landmark court filing for marriage equality.

Equality Florida, the largest civil rights organization dedicated to securing full equality for Florida’s LGBT Community, held a press conference January 21, 2014 to announce the filing of the lawsuit in Miami-Dade County. The plaintiffs were introduced at the conference by Nadine Smith, the Executive Director of Equality Florida. The six plaintiff couples have been together an average of 13 years, with the longest relationship being over 25 years.  Five of the couples have children and one even has grandchildren. They are your typical modern Florida family, with relationships that cross ethnic and religious lines.

Equality Florida is the catalyst behind the filing of this lawsuit and The Center commends them for taking on such a task.  They are joined by the National Center for Lesbian Rights and are represented by several prominent attorneys including Orlando Civil Rights expert, Mary Meeks.

The Center, located at 946 N. Mills Ave. Orlando, FL 32803 is a non-profit organization dedicated to informing, educating, supporting and advocating on behalf of the LGBT Community and its allies.

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THE CENTER GREATLY REDUCES ITS DEBT SERVICE ALLOWING EXPANSION OF NEW AND EXISTING PROGRAMS FOR CENTRAL FLORIDA

CenterLogoThe Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Central Florida (The Center) announces the sale of the adjoining property currently occupied by Forbidden City.  This transaction is the culmination of the Board of Directors of The Center taking a pro-active role to reduce the debt service, resulting in The Center being on a strong financial foundation for the first time in over a decade.

Timothy Vargas, President of the Board of Directors, issued the following statement:

“Today’s property sale and substantial pay down of our mortgage debt is the culmination of many months of sustained focus toward bringing financial stability to The Center.  Over the past 15 months, we have managed the finances with laser like focus, and as a result, we have paid off over $310,000 in debt.  What this means financially for The Center cannot be overstated.  For the first time in 10 years, The Center’s debt burden has been reduced to a reasonable level given the size of our organization.  Even after the sale of the Forbidden City property, The Center retains ownership of our other two Mills 50 properties which gives us significant flexibility as we steer the organization through the next 10 years.  By dramatically reducing the debt burden, our donors can now rest assured that funds are used for programs that serve the community, and not for debt service.”

This reduction of debt allows The Center to concentrate on extending existing programs such as support services and counseling  and transgender individuals, to implement new services for seniors, women, and minorities, and to become more involved in domestic violence prevention in our community.  For many years financial limitations prevented The Center from being a true Community Center for many of our diverse members in Central Florida.  This sale, while not completely paying off all debts, allows The Center to earmark donated funds for the expansion of such programs.

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EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR’S ANNUAL REPORT 2013

Randy Stephens 2013 Black and White Gala Executive DirectorWhile 2012 was a watershed moment for The Center, the actual turning point for The Center occurred during 2013.  With a new and energized Board of Directors in place, we were actual able to hold a series of events that not only raised the awareness of The Center, but re-branded us as the focal point of the LGBT community.   I do want to address a few of the highlights that occurred in 2013.

  • The Center hosted a reception for all pro LGBT candidates who were elected in 2012.  The reception was attended by most of the invited officials along with a large number of movers and shakers in the community, many of whom had never been to Center before.
  • In March we hosted a Town Hall meeting to address issues raised during the oral arguments made before the US Supreme Court on DOMA and Prop 8.  This was the catalyst that created an alliance to rally the community in anticipation of victory in the court.
  • The Center successfully presented the first Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast that was attended by many local leaders in Central Florida.  Guest speakers were Stuart Milk and Congressman Alan Grayson.
  • An alliance that consisted of The Center, MBA/COWP, HRC, Equality Florida,  ACLU planned and presented the most talked about rally in the history of Orlando – The Marriage Equality Rally attended by over 5,000 people the day after the US Supreme Court victories.
  • In a joint effort with MBA/COWP, we presented a Town Hall meeting where a panel of experts addressed how the changes brought about by the Supreme Court would affect couples in Florida.
  • Successfully presented Bingo at The Center, under the guidance of Ben Johansen and Tim Vargas.
  • For the first time in three years, The Center was represented at the Centerlink Annual Conference by Michael Vacirca and myself.
  • This year in COWP, The Center acted as ambassadors on behalf of COWP, along with presenting a float entry in the Pride parade for the first time in at least five years.
  • The Center hosted another successful Black and White Gala under the guidance of Russell Walker.
  • After a year of discussion, The Center is applying to operate a senior’s program under SAGE
  • The Center has been appointed to the Orange County Domestic Violence Task Force.
  • Appointed a new director of HIV program and an assistant director.
  • The Center was honored by the Wedding Alliance for the work we have done in support of marriage equality.
  • The Center was presented with the MBA’s Out and Proud Award.
  • For the third year in a row, The Center won the Watermark Wave Award as most effective LGBT organization.

These are prime examples of how The Center has become the representative and spokesperson of the LGBT Community.  No longer are we known as the place for free HIV testing or the host of several 12 step programs.  But we cannot rest on our laurels….  There are many more programs and events to present, including Career Building and Resume preparation along with working on providing opportunity for GED studies. We are looking to again join with MBA/COWP for future community events along with continuing with our successful events such as the Harvey Milk Breakfast and Black and White Gala III.

Looking forward, The Center is in good shape.  We are much better financially than we were a year ago; the building is sufficient but more room is needed to expand our programs.  We are all looking for options to remedy this – however patience above all else must be observed.  While we had to make numerous repairs and replacement of some fixtures, the building is still serving its purpose – providing a beacon for the community.

There are numerous people who are responsible for such successes, including our volunteers, Director of Operations, Volunteer Director and HIV Director.  Their services are invaluable.  But most of the credit for this year’s success must go the Board of Directors for providing the leadership, creativity and passion that has changed The Center and Central Florida.

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The Center Orlando Publishes Our Audited Financials

Center LogoLETTER FROM THE BOARD PRESIDENT

In October 2012, the Board of Directors set out on a mission to completely remake the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida and change the way that we interacted with the community. As part of that process, the Board and Executive Director made a commitment to transparency in our financial dealings in order to let our members and the general public know and understand how contributed funds are managed and spent. We agreed that the single biggest thing that we could do to this end was to begin an annual audit program. After being in operation for over 30 years with no financial audits, we knew that the task was daunting, but we committed to its completion. We are very pleased to announce that we have completed the first annual financial statement audit of the “The Center” for the year ended September 30, 2012. The Center is currently working with our auditors, Carter & Company, CPA’s, LLC, to complete our audit for the year ended September 30, 2013, and we expect to release those statements in the very near future.

Having the first audit behind us, The Center is now fully focused on fulfilling our mission to promote and empower our community through information, education, advocacy, and support! We want to thank all of our volunteers, members, and contributors for your continued support and engagement as we transform The Center and the Central Florida community!

Warmest Regards,
Timothy Vargas
President of the Board

OUR AUDITED FINANCIALS

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