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Help needed to plan community centre

Credit: (Shawn Scallen)

Wanted: Volun-teers to make a dream come true. A shortage of help is holding up plans for Ottawa’s first gay community centre, a longtime dream of this city’s queer community.

Planning has slowed to a snail’s pace, say organizers. They plan to change that with a new “friendraising” campaign and a plea for volunteers.

“Right now we’re at the stag party before the wedding stage,” says Bill Staubi, the new co-chair of the planning committee. “We’re just about to go and buy that tuxedo but we’re not sure – powder blue or traditional black?”

The committee still hopes to meet its goal of a centre by 2006. But Staubi admits they face many challenges and big decisions ahead.

Much of the foundation has been laid, with a variety of other gay and lesbian services offering support. Organizers hope to move from a planning stage to a building stage in the upcoming year.

“Our big challenge is the diversity of the community in terms of location and needs,” says Staubi. “Our community is not all in one neighbourhood. For example, how do we reach the lesbian Barrhaven coffee group without making them all come downtown?”

The centre will most likely be located in Centretown. But further details have yet to be worked out. Should a new structure be built or can one already in place be used?

Whatever its final shape, one thing is clear: the need for a centre is indisputable, says Anne Wright, a coordinator and long-time volunteer.

“In our community we have incredible potential,” says Wright.

Take gay youth, for example. “Youth need to be better supported in the process of questioning their sexual and gender identity and coming out,” says Wright. “Rates of depression and suicide amongst gay youths are still very high compared to other parts of the population. That’s one of the drivers around the centre.”

There is a fear amongst some in the community, however, that the centre will compete with existing organizations already servicing gays.

Keith Duncanson, president of Pink Triangle Services and fellow co-chair of the planning committee, says those fears are unfounded. Duncanson says the centre will only enhance or complement the services provided by PTS and other organizations.

But the centre will be offering no services if it cannot break out of the planning stage. As it stands, the workload is piling up among the small group of people who are spearheading the campaign. Staubi says the committee is in desperate need of volunteers.

“We need general volunteers to help set-up fundraising activities and getting the word out, but we also need folks who have had specific experience in creating a community centre before,” says Staubi.