Back to 2014 InFocus: Non-Profits Community Assessment Survey Index…

Time Out Youth Center, a Charlotte organization offering direct services and support to LGBT youth, is among one of the strongest-performing non-profit groups in qnotes’ 2014 Community Assessment Survey, an annual review of local and regional organizations’ financial and tax filings.

The group’s most recent spate of growth comes after more than two decades of history. Started in 1991, founder Tonda Taylor held her first support group meeting with just four lesbian and gay youth. The group went on to work with clergy, educators and young people to change the landscape and local environment for LGBT youth.

It its first few years, it hosted the area’s first LGBT youth prom, challenged those who were non-inclusive in their practices and was part of national initiatives on LGBT youth and more.

Today, it has grown into a positive example of local non-profit growth. This year’s non-profit survey shows its fundraising revenue has consistently increased over several years, allowing the organization to expand its services and programs. As program capacity increased, so did Time Out Youth’s need for new space. Today, it operates out of a 3,000-square-foot facility in NoDa, at 2320-A N. Davidson St., including two group rooms, kitchen, three offices, counseling center and reception area.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Rodney Tucker, as well as previous director Steve Bentley, the organization has left the shadow of controversies in 2008. At the time, a former executive director had been accused of intimidating staff, interns and youth clients, along with engaging in anti-LGBT statements and actions. She eventually resigned, and Bentley, new board members and Tucker undertook new efforts to grow the organization.

Now it supports three full-time and one part-time staff members. Also, four interns from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte work onsite to provide additional support services to the staff and clients. New in 2015 through a partnership with the Charlotte Business Guild and Charlotte Works, five paid internships will focus on a statewide GSA network, community relations, youth outreach, and social work.

“Time Out Youth Center is now a real non-profit,” said Tucker. “The new center has increased our presence in the community and professionalism of the organization.”

But it cannot do this without its staff and volunteers.

Joining Tucker are O’Neale Atkinson, director of youth programs; Todd Rosendahl, director of school outreach; and Shakira Clark, director of youth services.

Tucker sports over 20 years of non-profit management experience at local and national levels focused on fundraising, strategic and financial planning, coalition building and advocacy.

Atkinson, who worked briefly as this newspaper’s editor in 2012, has also previously worked with The LGBT Center of Charlotte and has also worked with non-profit and community organizations.

Rosendahl has worked as an academic tutor and grant writer, as well as teaching in classrooms from K-12 and higher. His undergraduate and graduate research focused on gays-straight alliances, creating queer spaces and intersectionality.

Clark was on a championship CIAA women’s basketball team and was a Phi Alpha social work national honor society member in college.

Successes have been plentiful at TOY. In 2013, staffers said it provided 1,376 hours of drop-in space programming, trained 64 volunteers, made presentations to 740 people, provided 536 nights of housing for six youth, was instrumental in providing 32 youth access to emergency financial assistance,  gave 14 clients 72 hours of free individual counseling, as well as supported 28 gay-straight alliances reaching 481 youth.

TOY Holiday Wish List

Time Out Youth Center would gratefully receive the following items for distribution to LGBT youth during the holiday season.
• Emergency financial assistance gift cards (Walmart, CVS, Food Lion, VISA, Papa Johns, Taco Bell, McDonalds and Bojangles are some of their favorites)
• Snacks (crackers, granola bars, snack packs)
• Art supplies (paint, brushes, canvases, water color paper, colored pencils, pastels)
• Board and video games (age appropriate, XBox, XBox 360, PlayStation 2, Wii, suitable for group or party games), Wii game system
• Toiletries (shaving cream, razors, deodorant, tooth brush, toothpaste)
• Cosmetics (blush, eyeliner, lipstick, nail polish)
• Tickets to Carowinds
• LGBT DVDs or books (PG-13 or TV-14 rated, unless LGBT documentary)
• Pride flags (rainbow, bi, trans)
• Lava lamps, disco ball, surround sound
• Travel speakers for phone and laptops
• Copier, lap top, sound bar with bluetooth
Other services that are always welcome year round are host home providers, volunteers and sponsors for Friday night dinners for 20 youth.
A holiday benefit to raise funds for TOY will be held on Dec. 14, 1 p.m., at Hattie’s Tap & Tavern, 2918 The Plaza. TOY is appreciative for any funds that can be contributed or raised for its center.

TOY received its first federal grant through a partnership with the Charlotte Women’s Commission so that a social worker could work with LGBT youth and healthy relationships. Additionally, PFLAG is able to offer services to parents. The center has a reduced age limit so that younger youth can find a safe space in which to thrive.

The organization has a partnership with UNC-Charlotte to provide free counseling to youth and parents while offering individual, couples and family counseling.

Its progressive Q-Tribe initiative has been created to make the center more trans inclusive.

Partnerships are essential in propelling the services provided by TOY. It has national partnerships with Advocates for Youth, Campus Pride, CenterLink, Forty to None Project, GLSEN, GSA Network and the

Human Rights Campaign Foundation. On a local level it gets support from Alexander Children Homes, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Libraries, Freedom Center for Social Justice, Human Rights Campaign, LGBT Center of Raleigh, Mecklenburg County Public Health, Outright Youth-Catawba Valley, Regional AIDS Interfaith Network, The Relatives, Safe Alliance, Youth Out Right-Asheville and the Women’s Commission of Mecklenburg County.

Tucker said that TOY is fortunate to have the support of many community members and local foundations including the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, Laughing Gull Foundation, Freeman Foundation, Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation, Gamma Mu Foundation, Farewell to Summer Foundation and sponsors of the group’s annual Platinum Gala and Celebration of the Arts.

For a non-profit, the diversity of its fundraising support is important.

“The board has implemented a development plan to ensure the success of our center,” Tucker said. “The fundraising plan focuses on a balanced revenue stream from individuals, grants and special events. Individual donors are a key component to the agencies success.”

Even though it has seen many successes over the years, there are still obstacles.

“Youth voice and youth leadership are our top challenges,” Tucker shared. “If we are not hearing the youth’s needs, we will not be relevant as an organization.”

Tucker added: “We have several target populations — youth, parents, teachers and community. Developing messages that are appropriate and use the correct technology to reach them is a constant challenge.”

Tucker also said the organization faces challenges in “providing professional opportunities for young LGBTQ advocates to learn and work in the LGBTQ field,” though, he said, the group is “luck to have a staff that is professionally trained and educated in LGBT issues.”

Tucker added: “We want to give back and provide that opportunity for others.”

To face some of their challenges, Tucker said community members can help in several ways. Primarily, the group needs adults who can provide host homes to youth without places to stay.

“LGBTQ youth are homeless at a higher rate than non-LGBTQ youth,” Tucker said. “Our Host Home Program needs adults who are willing to open their home from one night to three months to help a youth in need.”

Donations to the group’s Emergency Financial Assistance fund is also needed. “The Center spends over $3,000 per year in financial assistance to youth in need,” Tucker said. “Donations of gift cards to grocery stores, drug stores, local restaurants [and] bus tickets are needed year round.”

The group also looks for opportunities to take its programs and services on the road. It offers free presentations to schools, businesses and congregations.

On the horizon for 2015, TOY has various milestones it hopes to achieve. It wants to maintain its core programs, while growing its comprehensive marketing plan targeting youth, parents, teachers and school administrators and the community. TOY is also looking to expand its regional focus by bringing discussion groups into rural counties. They also want to add therapeutic groups for youth and parents and gain more support for the new statewide GSA Network.

Recently, TOY became an official David Bohnett Foundation Cyber Center. The grant totaled $29,670 that covered the acquisition of 10 computers, a laser printer with warranty, extra toner, tax and shipping, as well as $11,000 in cash to pay for IT support, furniture and more. This grant, Tucker said, should be renewed every three years to ensure the equipment is up to date. They expect the shipment any time now. : :

info: 704-344-8335.

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.

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