Leaders and volunteers of The San Diego LGBT Community Center (The Center) are planning a community celebration over two years in the making.
On Saturday, May 14, 2022, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., attendees can expect to experience a sense of returning home to the heart of the LGBTQ community, at our newly-renovated, modern Center. Community members will be among the first to see and experience renovations to the building’s common areas and community spaces on the ground floor of the nonprofit’s 17,500 sq.ft. iconic community center.
The Saturday, May 14 opening celebration signifies a major milestone in a phased reopening of The Center, and will feature an opening ceremony, a Resource Fair where the community-at-large can discover what’s new at The Center, to connect with familiar faces including The Center’s CEO Caroline (Cara) Dessert, Esq. (she/hers), and new Center staff, including the organization’s new Deputy CEO, Kim Fountain (she/they). There will also be a staff-led tour of The Center’s newly renovated ground floor. The Center’s Open House celebration is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required to participate in the tour. Learn more at http://www.thecentersd.org/open-house.
“We’ve always said we will fully reopen our building to the public when it is safe to do so for everyone, as we value every community member’s health and wellbeing,” says Cara Dessert, CEO, The Center. “While we were required to shut the doors to the general public of our physical location here in Hillcrest in March 2020, every Center staff member continued to work hard to find new and innovative ways to help and to continue to support San Diego County’s amazing and diverse LGBTQ community, including serving clients in need in person. We were required to reimagine traditional service and program offerings, as well as expanded partnerships and collaborations to engage more people.”
Renovations are one of the largest projects in the nonprofit’s history
The renovations of the building’s common areas and community gathering spaces on the first floor occurred during the closure of the physical location, and are part of the process to continue The Center’s innovative and relevant work as the nonprofit approaches their 50th anniversary in 2022.
“As part of our strategic plan, we surveyed community members who advocated for renovating our Welcome Lobby, having more meeting spaces at The Center, better restrooms, and an improved sound system in our auditorium, to create a more welcoming environment,” describes Dessert. “This is one of the largest renovation projects at our main location.”
Renovation features include:
- The Center’s Welcome Lobby is a more welcoming, safe, modern, and beautiful space. Walls were removed for a more open concept, with fresh paint and modern flooring.
- A new state-of-the-art heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system provides the cleanest air to our staff and community.
- Restrooms on the main level have been transformed – fresh paint, new countertops and sinks, new lighting and fixtures, and new bathroom floors.
- New LED lights installed in the lobby, throughout the main level, and in all hallways, to improve safety and to set the mood for our many community events.
- The Center’s historic Auditorium, the heart of many of community celebrations, has a new sound system with an enhanced sound mixer with automatic sound balancing, speakers to alleviate reverb, a new wall-mounted touch screen for system navigation new wireless microphone, and a direct tie-in to the hearing loop to enhance those with T-Coil technology in assisted hearing devices.
- New sleek and durable flooring covers the entire first floor including the Welcome Lobby, community rooms, all restrooms, and our Auditorium.
- Addition of two new community spaces on the first floor.
- Installation of new exterior cameras for safety.
- Improved high-speed internet and Wi-Fi.
The newly renovated space also features visual art pieces created by members of the community.
During the pandemic, The Center expanded in many ways
Since its inception 50 years ago when the nonprofit started with just an answering machine in a borrowed closet that served as a lifeline for those looking for compassionate connection, The Center is now one of the largest and most vibrant LGBTQ community centers in the United States, providing the community with more than 80,000 direct service visits each year. The needs have never been greater. The Center’s staff expanded their services and their team to manage the increased demands for services and support during an unprecedented time for all.
“Many in our community experienced the loss of family, friends, and loved ones – some lost jobs and businesses,” says Dessert. “The Center provided critical and emergency services to help the community through the pandemic. We’ve been here for our community through the best and worst of times, as we have been for 50 years. We thank the community at large for supporting our work to assist our neighbors through an extremely challenging time.”
Since March 2020, their budget grew 20 percent and the staff count increased by 15 percent, to accomplish the following:
- Supporting an increased number of people helped through their food bank program and created a robust and innovative Food Program which grew from serving 600 to over 1,500 people per month.
- Administering more than $125,000 in housing assistance and rental relief per year to help community members stay in their homes.
- Behavioral Health Services teams provided over 4,200 virtual individual counseling sessions and groups for our LGBTQ community.
- Hosting more than 900 sessions of virtual Support and Discussion groups many with record attendance. New groups were created to keep the community feeling supported.
- Launching a new program, Black Services, to better serve our San Diego Black LGBTQ community.
- A successful outreach campaign for the 2020 Census and served as a Super Polling place over four days where 1,200+ community members voted in the 2020 elections.
A community celebration for all
The Saturday, May 14 event is designed to welcome the community back to The Center, a place that thousands consider home. “This Open House is an opportunity for the community-at-large to discover what’s new at The Center and to connect with familiar and new faces,” says Dessert. “If anyone is in need of The Center’s services again, or for the first time, please reach out and know you are not alone.”
To learn more about the May 14 Open House event at The Center, please visit their website: thecentersd.org.
The Center’s Open House
Saturday, May 14, 2022
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
3909 Centre Street, San Diego, CA 92103
Opening ceremony: 11 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Tours of the newly renovated space: 11:45 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Covid protocols: For indoors, proof of vaccination, booster, and masks are required.
Advance registration required to participate in the indoor tours.
For more information, visit www.thecentersd.org/open-house.
ABOUT THE SAN DIEGO LGBT+ COMMUNITY CENTER
The San Diego Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center, Inc., (d.b.a., The Center) is one of the largest and most vibrant LGBTQ community centers in the nation. Functioning as the San Diego LGBTQ community’s anchor organization, The Center is led by an 11-member board of directors, employs more than 75 paid staff, and utilizes more than 1,200 community volunteers to achieve its twin goals of promoting LGBTQ health/wellness and human rights. The Center provides targeted programs and services to the full diversity of the San Diego LGBTQ community, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, nonbinary, immigrant, and HIV communities to the betterment of our entire San Diego region. Last year, The Center provided more than 80,000 direct service visits to San Diego community members, and through its events, activities, and advocacy, touched the lives of thousands more. For more information on The Center, visit thecentersd.org and follow the nonprofit on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.