Many of our young LGBTQ people turn to youth organizations to find sanctuary and support. These organizations are starting points where youth learn they are not alone, discover resources, and find opportunities to become leaders.
Odyssey Youth Center in Spokane, Washington is one such organization. A harsh economy is threatening Odyssey, Washington’s most beloved and vital LGBTQ youth organizations but organizers are committed to move from surviving to thriving.
On August 25 members of the Odyssey Youth Center family from all over the region joined in the 20th Birthday Celebration. Current youth participants, volunteers, and family were joined by alumni, former staff, and community members to recognize Odyssey’s two decades of empowering LGBTQ and straight ally youth in the Spokane area.
Ironically, about a week before this momentous event, due to the loss of several substantial grants and a difficult economy, the board had to make a very difficult decision to eliminate the Executive Director position in order to keep their doors open.
“While the guests understood the serious nature of Odyssey’s financial struggles the atmosphere was full of positive vibes,” said Ian Sullivan, Operations Coordinator. “Positive because we were all coming together like one giant family and positive because of what Odyssey has and will do for the youth of our community.”
“Odyssey is struggling, but we’re not a sinking ship,” wrote Kelly Lerner, Board Chair of Odyssey.
“The board is committed to serving our at-risk LGBTQ youth. Our doors are open, our programming continues, and our Oct. 27 Masquerade fundraiser is still happening. What we need to do, with the input of our youth, adult volunteers, and community supporters, is develop a new service model that we can financially sustain.”
The board is working diligently to “Re-vision and re-create our service model,” says Kelly “a model that fits both local needs and local support”. Kelly knows that change is a challenge, but can be exciting as it can create growth in new exciting directions. The resiliency of Odyssey is due to the commitment of a supportive community and through generous contributions, as well as a group of devoted volunteers and loyal staff.
Every year, Odyssey serves over 200 youth aged 14-21 years old with a small staff and many dedicated volunteers.
The next four months will be a busy time for Odyssey:
The Masquerade Ball, one of Odyssey’s annual fundraisers, is right around the corner – Saturday, October 27 – buy your tickets now!
The board will be meeting in strategic planning focus groups with youth, volunteers and the local community to re-envision Odyssey’s staffing model, fund development and services. Please stay tuned: we will need your ideas, your creativity and your passion for LGBTQ youth to strategically map out and implement Odyssey’s future.
To learn more about Odyssey and to make a contribution, call 509-325-3637 or visit their website.
Gunner Scott is Pride Foundation’s Director of Programs. Email Gunner.