Saturday, May 16, 2009

Community Update from Jason Cianciotto, Executive Director

On May 13, I had to face the challenge of carrying out the 3rd round of layoffs at Wingspan in the past 12 months because of the economic recession.

Wednesday was the last day at the office for two dedicated colleagues: Peter Powers-Lake, Director of Finance and Administration, and Nick Ray, Director of Development.

Peter served our community as Wingspan's Director of Finance for over three years. We shared an office, and from the very beginning of my tenure I learned from his calm and steadfast management. Peter's passion and commitment went above and beyond his job duties – just this past weekend he shared his family story as part of Wingspan's Families You Know storytelling event.

Nick Ray's commitment to Wingspan stretches back for over a decade, when he was a member of Wingspan's Board of Directors and founder of our Annual Dinner. Prior to our time together at Wingspan, I had the honor of working with Nick for several years at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute in New York. After a challenging time of interim leadership, Nick brought enthusiasm and creativity to Wingspan's development team.

The Wingspan Board and I made these difficult decisions to reduce costs and ensure that our center is here to serve future generations. There are too many in the LGBT community who need a safe space to call home, too many who are victims of harassment and violence, too many youth rejected from their homes, too many seniors who need community and companionship. The list goes on and on...

As we fight to support our center, we need to remember that these changes result from the rippling effects of failed state and national policies that have devastated our economy and increased our country's unemployment rate to the highest it's been since 1983.

While the majority in our state legislature acts based on extremist ideology and further delays passing a state budget, and our city and county governments fight over their own, we are left with uncertainty about the renewal at the end of June of grant funding that makes up more than half of our current budget.

Despite these challenges, I am inspired by the continued dedication of Wingspan's staff, volunteers and board, as well as our partner organizations exploring ways to strengthen collaborations and to use community resources more efficiently.

I am grateful to share about a new partnership with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, whose financial management team will now also be overseeing Wingspan's financial systems.

Wendell Hicks, SAAF's Executive Director, and Lorna Petersen, SAAF's Finance Director, have worked with me and Wingspan's board to build a collaboration that ensures Wingspan is held to the highest standards of fiscal management, while reducing administrative costs to help us adapt to funding challenges.

This innovative collaboration is just one part of a broader plan to re-enforce Wingspan's foundation in these challenging times. Our board also recently crafted three operating plans based on different grant and fundraising projections. These plans ensure the availability of our community center space, as well as core programs and services, through a combination of staff and volunteer opportunities. Let's not forget that Wingspan began as an all-volunteer center, and our volunteers remain the life-blood of this organization.

Please join me in thanking and supporting Peter, Nick, Wingspan staff, volunteers and board members for their incredible commitment to our community and our center. I want to thank you as well for your continued support. Together we will sustain our center and emerge from this recession with a strong foundation for growth.

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