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Vancouver Pride helps local queer groups

'That's the whole idea of community': Coolen

"At the core of our organization is a belief that we can help to create community through Pride," says Ken Coolen, president of the VPS, which announced its Legacy Fund recipients on Nov 10. Credit: Natasha Barsotti photo

For the seventh year in a row, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) distributed grants to smaller community organizations to support their initiatives on Nov 10.

The Legacy Fund is the VPS’s way of giving back to the community, says president Ken Coolen. “That’s the whole idea of community, seeing how we can get together and help out.”

Each spring the VPS hosts a silent auction as part of its Taste of Pride event. All proceeds from the auction go directly to the Legacy Fund.

This year’s auction raised just under $5,000, which has now been shared between 10 local non-profit and charitable groups providing services and support to the queer community. The 2011 recipients are AIDS Vancouver, Green Thumb Theatre, Lighthouse of Hope, Metro Vancouver Dream Centre Society, Out in Schools, Qmunity, Rainbow Community Church, SHER Vancouver, Trans Alliance Society and Women Against Violence Against Women.

Marie Little, of the Vancouver Trans Alliance Society, says the grant means much more to the group than just cash.

“It was really important to me. Not just the money, but the recognition that we are a part of the community,” she says.

“We are the ‘T’ that often gets forgotten in the LGBTQ spectrum,” she adds.

Little says the $600 grant will be spent helping members of the alliance conduct outreach to other trans communities throughout the province. Little says she would like to see a BC-wide trans collective formed.

“We’re super excited that we’ve been chosen,” says Out in Schools’ director of education Ross Johnstone. “It’s great that we are on the community’s radar.”

“The queer community is one of the most benevolent communities there is,” Johnstone adds.

Out in Schools will put its grant directly toward more anti-homophobia programming, he says, adding that a portion will support the group’s new national youth-video contest.

Coolen says the VPS has raised an average of $5,000 a year for community grants.

“It was not too long ago that Pride was in financial need,” Coolen points out. “But everyone stepped up, and that’s what saved Pride.”

Coolen wasn’t VPS president when Pride was clawing its way back from a $107,000 deficit in 2003, but he surmises that the difficulties stemmed from the group’s expenses exceeding its income.

Today, Coolen says Pride is in good shape financially, although the organization still relies on city grants to offset some of the policing and sanitation costs of staging its well-attended parade every August.

The VPS doesn’t count the money raised annually for the Legacy Fund among its revenues since all the proceeds are earmarked specifically for, and disbursed to, other organizations.

“It’s part of what Pride wants to do: give back to the community,” Coolen says.

“At the core of our organization is a belief that we can help to create community through Pride,” he explains. “Most people see that as the parade, but the parade is really the culmination of our community’s ongoing efforts year-round. As such, we are so pleased to work with and support LGBTTQ organizations that are doing great work in our community.”

Next year’s Taste of Pride will take place on April 4, 2012, at the Roundhouse Community Centre.