Kayla Miller has been at Pink Triangle Services (PTS) for almost half her life.
Miller, 26, first came to PTS when she was 16. It was a difficult time in her life, and being part of Pink Triangle Youth (PTY) gatherings helped her to connect with other queer youth. Now the acting executive director at PTS, Miller is passionate about what the organization means to her.
“It was here during a time in my life where I didn’t have a lot of really positive things going on, and it became a lifeline for me,” she says. “I created a lot of really long-lasting connections with people here that have become part of my family. It’s given me a lot in terms of my self-confidence and my self-worth, and it allowed me to explore who I am and who I want to be. It’s really given me that space to do that and the freedom to do that.”
During Miller’s time at PTS, she segued from being a participant to a volunteer and then to an employee. In 2009, she was awarded an Xtra Hero Award for youth activism. She’s seen PTS go through many challenges over the years, including funding problems, which led to Claudia Van den Heuvel, the organization’s former executive director, taking a voluntary layoff in May. Although Van den Heuvel returned for seven weeks to help PTS prepare grant applications, in November the organization announced she was leaving PTS permanently.
It was Van den Heuvel’s decision, Miller says, but one that was fuelled by PTS’s financial situation.
“PTS has been a family to me, so it’s sad that financial circumstances have made it necessary for me to move on to a new phase in my professional life,” Van den Heuvel said in a press release announcing her permanent departure. “I’m proud of the work that I have done with so many members of Ottawa’s LGBT community and I look forward to continue my time with PTS as a volunteer.”
Miller has high praise for her former boss. “I think PTS probably would have disappeared a long time ago if it hadn’t been for her. We were able to grow our capacity a lot in the time that she was here.”
Miller says she considers the former executive director a mentor and is grateful that although Van den Heuvel is focusing on starting a graphic design and brand management company, she volunteers her time to help Miller get up to speed in her new role as acting executive director.
When asked if her role might become permanent, Miller says she isn’t sure. PTS doesn’t have a timeline so far, but other changes are afoot. Board members are taking on portfolios, such as finance and community relations, which will give Miller help in running things. There are also spots available for new board members. In keeping with PTS’s mandate of diversity, the organization is particularly looking for men and people of colour who identify outside the gender binary to join the board.
On the financial front, PTS is applying for grants from the Trillium Foundation, United Way and Community Foundations of Canada, Miller says. She took a United Way grant-writing workshop, which outlines what the organization looks for when assessing applications and organizations. Securing those grants would go a long way to diversifying PTS’s funding and increasing its financial security, she says.
PTS also wants to hear from community members to help set the programming for the new year. On PTS’s website, people can vote for the groups and services they’d like to see in 2015. Possibilities include a francophone discussion group or a group for survivors of partner violence.
“We have a lot of exciting things happening in 2015, so I’m really excited to announce those in the new year,” Miller says.