Gay center is beset by money woes

December 31, 1993|By Holly Selby | Holly Selby,Staff Writer

Fund-raising problems at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore could jeopardize the center's programs, officials say.

A drop in donations and unexpectedly small returns from fund-raisers already have forced some cost-cutting, said Sharon Gorenstein, a trustee and head of the health committee.

"We no longer have an executive director. The cleaning service has been cut to once a week, and the boiler blew up, so there's no heat on the second floor," she said.

However, "nowhere do we want it said that we will close our doors," she added.

The center's monthly budget is about $5,000, and bills now exceed income by some $2,000 a month, said Greg Satorie, a trustee. "We've been scraping by since June, and now we need to let people know the reality of the situation."

The nonprofit organization, at 241 W. Chase St., is 16 years old. Its services range from AIDS-education programs to classes on such topics as gardening and architecture, said Mr. Satorie.

Moreover, the center sponsors an advice and referral hot line, staffed by volunteers and open nightly. And both the Gay Paper and a bookstore, Lambda Rising, are housed there.

"All of these things are intimately connected to the wellness of the center and the gay community," said Mr. Satorie. "There are an awful lot of people [outside the city] who don't have regular access to information or networking, and these people are also benefiting from the center's programs." But in the past year, charitable gifts have dropped steadily, he said, because of AIDS -- "people falling ill and losing incomes" -- and because the center must compete with a growing list of other nonprofit organizations in the gay community.

Another factor: Unanticipated expenses whittled away profits from this year's fund-raisers. The main one, Gay Pride Day, an annual June festival of vending booths, picnics and a parade, drew a crowd of nearly 10,000 and generated some $40,000. But the event cost about $30,000 to run, said Gilbert Morrisette, president of the center's board of trustees.

Adding to the cost were fees levied by the city for services formerly provided free. Before this year, the city did not charge for such things as police supervision of parades and cleanup of trash, said Tony Wallnofer of the city Department of Public Works.

For Gay Pride Day, expenses for those kinds of services increased from about $500 in 1992 to some $4,000 this year, said Carole Wiedorfer, treasurer of the center.

Another new expense: about $2,500 to purchase booths that previously could be rented.

Unless the Baltimore center gets financial help from somewhere, cutbacks in programs will be considered, said Ms. Gorenstein.

The position of executive director has been left vacant since November when that official resigned. "We can't replace him until we can guarantee funds to pay the person," said Mr. Satorie.

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