Time Out Youth Center has settled into their new ‘forever home’ in Charlotte, N.C.

“Large streams from little fountains flow,
Tall oaks from little acorns grow.”
— D. Everett, The Columbian Orator, 1797

In 1990, Tonda Taylor, along with human services professionals, educators, physicians and clergy, assembled to discuss the needs of young LGBTQ individuals who were struggling with their sexual orientation. They knew that there was a desperate need for a place for them to turn for help and support. So on April 8, 1991, four gay and lesbian youth gathered for a discussion group under the guidance of Taylor and others for what would later become Time Out Youth Center, the premier organization in the Charlotte, N.C. area to address the needs of LGBTQ youth.

Community Room

Fast forward to August 2017 and where that seed that was planted ‘lo those many years ago, has now arisen a multi-faceted powerhouse which moved into its permanent 7,400 sq. ft. “forever home” facility located at 3800 Monroe Rd. during July 2017 and serves youth ages 11-20.

The new building is abuzz with activity. It houses the center, as well as three tenants: offices and clothes closet for Transcend Charlotte, an organization and counseling service for the transgender community; Equality North Carolina satellite offices for regional initiatives; and a counseling office for Sarah Yum, LMFT. In the future, it will also begin HIV testing and will offer community space for LGBTQ organizations to host board meetings and public forums. It is also home to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) Charlotte. The center also provides out-of-center support by way of two satellite groups, one in Cabarrus County and one in Gaston County, that operate much as the main facility does as far as staff support and activities. In addition to working in this mode, Time Out Youth also works with Gay-Straight Alliances, parents, youth and teachers at schools across the Carolinas.

The newly renovated and up-fitted headquarters comes complete with a main multi-purpose group room, a computer lab, a smaller activity room, pantry, laundry facilities for homeless youth, shower room, kitchen, four gender-neutral restrooms, conference room, and program, school outreach and administrative offices. A bus stop is located just outside the front door for those who take public transportation. The center is conveniently located to Uptown Charlotte and is accessible by car from all local counties, Time Out Youth shared.

Executive Director Rodney Tucker shared that the design and furniture selections for the main room were recommended and suggested by the youth who wanted an area with a “cool vibe” in which to thrive. Tables are made from recycled skateboards and all furniture can be easily moved and reset for any number of occasions or events.

Computer Lab

The center, even while in the move-in process, continued to operate normally, except it did not offer drop-in space for youth until July 31 when it opened its doors for its Homecoming Week, first unveiling to the young people who attended that day one experience. Forty-two showed up to celebrate that day. On Aug. 4, the center had a youth pride dance to culminate its first week’s festivities and over 110 attended that event It was sponsored by Campus Pride, Charlotte Black Gay Pride and Charlotte Pride.

A few youth share their first impressions: “So big. Happy!” — Valerie; “I love it so much! I’m excited to spend all my time here.” — Lexi; “Whoa! So many rainbows!!” — Jermaine.

To continue the celebration, the center will host its Grand Opening Ceremony at 2 p.m. on Aug. 20 with a ribbon cutting, campaign donor recognition and showcase of a time capsule created by center youth designed to be opened at Time Out Youth’s 50th anniversary in 2041. This will be followed by an open house from 2:30-5:30 p.m. Both are open to the public. The board and staff will be on hand to provide facility tour services to those in attendance.

And, on Aug. 15, Rev. Wanda Floyd from Metropolitan Community Church of Charlotte will offer a blessing on the new facility. Church members and the community are invited to attend.

In Time Out Youth’s latest statistical data report for 2016, numbers showed it served 357 unique visitors (compared to 162 in 2015) and 4,683 sign-ins for drop-in times (up from 2,370 in 2015). It also had 3,419 attend discussion groups (as compared to 1,930 in 2015). Attendance rates in Gaston County vary and in Cabarrus County, they average around 20 per month. LGBTQ youth have found it a safe gathering place, especially due to the ongoing debate over HB2.

Project Room

Tucker expressed that the organization has far exceeded what he had thought possible in such a short time. Thus far, they have achieved their initial strategic plan for purchasing a building, renovating it and moving in.

The center launched a $3.4 million capital campaign at the time of the building purchase in January 2017. In addition to the purchase and renovation of the building, the five-year campaign will expand programs and services (such as providing more free counseling and establish weekend hours), and will build a 10-bed transitional living shelter for LGBTQ homeless youth by 2020. As of July 25, 2017, the campaign had raised $2.25 million in gifts and pledges: $1.5 million from the Gambrell Family Foundation;$100,000 from the Howard R. Levine Foundation; $100,000 from Myers Park Baptist Church; and more than $550,000 from more than 100 donor households. Hopes are for another $2.4 million to be raised by the center’s grand opening on Aug. 20. Contributions at any level are welcome and appreciated either as a one-time gift or multi-year pledge.

“Our LGBTQ youth are the beneficiaries of this outpouring of support,” Board Chair Michael Condel stated. “Each gift to the campaign honors their courage and tenacity to be who they are. The board and staff are honored to assist them on their journey.”

Now, they are on to their next initiative which includes the design and construction of a transitional shelter for youth ages 18-23 on the empty lot behind the building. They are partnering with the True Colors organization out of New York, N.Y. who will provide support and a model for the shelter and is assisting in Time Out Youth’s efforts (see bit.ly/2wiznvt). Time Out Youth is engaged in revamping its three-year plan which includes: year one, research best practices and other issues for achieving their goals; year two, develop the plan of action, hire an architect and start construction; and year three, complete construction and be prepared to welcome its first residents at the end of the year.

For youth who are under 18, the center makes referrals to The Relatives who are more readily equipped to handle issues as they pertain to family dynamics and legal requirements.

In addition to all of this, CenterLink Executive Director Luna Tucker will provide training for the staff so that the staff can operate at its full potential and efficiency.

One need that Time Out Youth has consistently is volunteer support, Monday-Friday, from 3-5 p.m. or after 6:30 p.m. A class will be held in October to train volunteers who are interested in getting involved with the center’s youth. Volunteers can work in one of two ways; they can deal directly with youth during drop-in space and discussion group hours or they can work with the center’s staff and board in supporting financial resource development, telephone calls and serving meals on Thursdays and Fridays.

Recycled/Repurposed Skateboard Tables

Besides volunteerism, the center also has a wish list to help fulfill its needs. An Amazon wish list page has been established with various items that are still pending that have been requested. Visit amzn.to/2uePAol to learn more. Also, purchases made through smile.amazon.com will result in Amazon contributing 0.5 percent of the price of eligible purchases to Time Out Youth.

Moving to an area of the city adjacent to the Oakhurst community that has not been necessarily considered part of a “gayborhood” has proven enlightening. “The Oakhurst people have been incredibly welcoming,” Tucker said. In fact, neighboring businesses have expressed to Tucker that they would be interested in hiring the center’s youth participants. He has been overwhelmed by the acceptance that the center has received over such a short time. He is encouraged that the move was worthwhile and that the selection of the site was so viable. “We are thrilled to move into our Forever Home and are so thankful for the deep community support we have received during this process,” Tucker added.

The center is currently seeking a full-time assistant director of programs and services. Duties include: case management, programming, volunteer management, administrative responsibilities, training and more. Deadline for application is Aug. 18 and start date is in September. Send a resume and cover letter detailing qualifications to Tucker at rtucker@timeoutyouth.org.

On Aug. 16, Miss Gay America Suzy Wong, as the alter ego of Arnold Myint, a Nashville, Tenn.-based chef and restaurateur of Bravo’s “Top Chef” and Food Network fame will visit the center to host an interactive cooking session with about 40 youth. The following two nights, she will be on stage at the Miss Gay North Carolina America pageant at The Scorpio, 2301 Freedom Dr., where she will turn over her crown to the new winner at the culmination of the event. Cover charge is $10.

Time Out Youth will host the GSA Fall Leadership Summit on Sept. 9, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., for middle and high school students who are part of genders and sexualities alliances and gay-straight alliances clubs across the region. GSA student members, officers and advisors are welcome to attend. Those who are interested in beginning a GSA at their school are also invited. Attendees will engage in leadership development skills and coalition building, as well as workshops and group discussions. Networking is one of the bonuses for those who chose to participate in the summit. Food will be provided and there is no cost to attend. Space is limited, so register online quickly.

For those GSA groups who are not registered with the center’s Regional GSA Network, email Rebby Kern, assistant director of school outreach at rkern@timeoutyouth.org or visit the youth GSA registration page.

For more information on Time Out Youth, visit timeoutyouth.org.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.