Justin Ziegler, one of the organizers of an April 22 meeting to discuss the need for a “world class” Atlanta gay community center, announced the grant yesterday.
“I think it shows that there is money in the community and that there is support for moving forward with this project. It was my hope, since we originally met at Mixx on April 22, that the first donation large donation would be received within a month,” Ziegler told the Georgia Voice.
“Since I don’t work for any of the organizations involved and receive no direct benefits from this money, I was hopeful that we could raise $100,000 from a handful of donors to minimize the time and effort it takes for the development of these funds,” he said.
The funding would be received in August, according to Ziegler. It would likely go to the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative, which has been the fiscal agent for the existing Rush Center.
The gift from the Russell Foundation would be in addition to any other funding the foundation gives to groups that use the Rush Center, Ziegler said.
At the April meeting, about 20 activists gathered to discuss the idea of building or renovating a current building for an LGBT community center similar to the large facilities in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
Attendees expressed support for the concept of a world-class center in Atlanta, but stressed there is also the need to support the Phillip Rush Center that already provides space and resources to numerous LGBT organizations. The Rush Center, located on DeKalb Avenue, is named for gay community activist Phillip Rush, who died last April.
The Rush Center contains the offices of the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative, Georgia Equality and MEGA Family Project, and also provides meeting space for dozens of other organizations and groups, such as the Black Lesbians Cancer Survivors Group, Weight Watchers, AID Atlanta’s Evolution Program and the Atlanta Pride Committee.
The facility currently has 2,500 square feet and is nearly at capacity, Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham said at the meeting. Another space may come open in the building soon, which could add another approximate 1,000 square feet to the center. But rent for that space would be approximately $1,500 a month and Graham said the goal is to have at least nine months of funding secured before expanding, or about $15,000.
At the meeting, Ziegler suggested that the community try to raise $100,000 —enough to fund the Rush Center expansion for five years at a cost of about $90,000, with $10,000 to spend on assessing whether a larger scale center is needed, and what people would want from such a center.
The gift from the Lloyd Russell Foundation is the first major donation toward that goal.