“Due to the overwhelming community support we have been able to begin negotiations with the landlord,” said Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality. He and Linda Ellis, executive director of the Health Initiative, co-manage the Rush Center.

“Once we know that we have the space we can begin the process of determining the timeline for initiating and completing the build-out,” he added. “We anticipate that we will begin the build out in mid-summer and complete it by the end of the year, depending upon how quickly we raise the additional funds. Our goal is to do this in such a way that any disruption to organizations or services already held at the Rush Center will be minimized.”

Ellis said the lease on the current space expires in June and an attorney is currently negotiating a rental price for the current space and new space as one sum.

“As soon as the lease is finalized and we raise the additional $48,000 we’ll begin build out. Our goal is to have it completed by the end of the year,” she said.

That new space would become the center’s event space. The current event space will be renovated to include six more offices that will allow for at least one other organization — the Rainbow Center — to move into the Rush Center. The Rainbow Center serves LGBT Jewish people and families and advocates on their behalf.

Georgia Equality and the Health Initiative plan to hire an employee to help people navigate the health care system when the Affordable Care Act is implemented in January, and that person will also use one of the new offices, Ellis said.

“We have a committee raising that additional money. We’ve not had a chance to talk to them yet, but as soon as we have the lease negotiated … we could begin some phase of the build out,” she said.

“The first phase will be the new space. We can do that build out without interrupting what is taking place in the current space. And then when that build out is done and we can ship bigger events there, we’ll start build out in the current space.”

What if the $48,000 isn’t raised?

“I think we’re confident we’ll able to do it. The community has expressed the commitment,” she said.

But in a worst-case scenario, the Rush Center would minimize build out in the current space.

“But I don’t think that will happen,” Ellis said.

Plans for growth

With the addition of more offices in the current Rush Center, revenue from rent will increase and, in the end, result in a reduction of cost and money needed each year from donations.

Currently, the Rush Center relies on some $52,000 in annual community donations to keep the center open. With the planned expansion, the donations needed from the community are expected to drop between 20-30 percent to about $35,000 a year.

Right now, more than 100 groups and organizations utilize the Rush Center and there is a waiting list for other groups to meet. The Rush Center can’t fit in weekly groups because its calendar is completely full.

In a strategic plan for the Rush Center ratified in September 2012, “community stakeholders and leaders expressed the desire for [the Rush Center] to be more than a provider of space in being a sustainable community center and ‘portal/access point’ for LGBTQ information, resources and organizations, including supporting collaboration and continued growth and development of these agencies, especially for those who serve traditionally underserved LGBTQ communities.”

Goals for 2013 include the build out for its current and future space as well as possibly an LGBTQ resource library or kiosk.

In 2015, the Rush Center plans to increase its total budget to approximately $225,000 (45 percent from revenue, 55 percent from donations) while also launching a capital campaign to purchase the center.

Groups that currently have offices in the Rush Center include the Health Initiative, Georgia Equality, Atlanta Pride, In the Life Atlanta, United 4 Safety, Atlanta Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, SAGE for LGBT senior citizens, and ProGeorgia, a state civic group.


Top photo: Doug Carl, a close friend of Phillip Rush, said of the plannedexpansion, “We can do this as a collective number rather thanrelying on just a few. This is our center. We all use it.” (by Dyana Bagby)

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