In April of 2017, Stonewall Youth is moving into our new home. Finally! Our quest for a new permanent HQ began more than a year ago when our current building was sold. Stonewall Youth and the rest of the tenants have to vacate.
Our search for a new place and a lot of organizational soul-searching led us to the conclusion that we should celebrate our 25th anniversary by BUYING a new place instead of once again locking ourselves into a lease.
After more than a year of insecurity regarding when we’d have to move and where we would move, we signed a Lease to Own contract with the owner of our new building in December of 2016. We hope to sign a purchase agreement by the end of 2017. (See below for a more history on our quest.)
We’re happy and relieved to be finally moving in. Our new HQ is a two-story building (4,400 square feet) conveniently located in downtown Olympia. We’ll be using the first floor for the time being and look forward to expanding to the second floor. In alignment with our policy of confidentiality, we’re keeping the exact location private for now; stay tuned for further information!
The multipurpose building we hope to purchase will be a good investment, allow us to expand our programming (including more youth and all-ages workshops, dances, performances, and other events) provide stability to LGBTQ+ youth and to the organization, and give us the opportunity to support emerging ventures.
Our new HQ will also serve some of the needs expressed by the social justice organizations with whom we collaborate:
- A large room to be used for meetings, performances, youth and all-ages dances, fundraisers and other events.
- Reasonably priced office space available to allied nonprofits.
- A computer center for the LGBTQ+ community.
- An opportunity for individuals and organizations to invest and build equity.
- Hopefully, we’ll also be able to house and collaborate with Olympia’s emerging intergenerational trans and queer center: The PARQC (The People’s Activity and Recreational Queer Center). The PARQC is being created by Tali Abernathy Jones, Ari LaTourette, and other amazing community members and Stonewall Youth volunteers. The PARQC may start out as a program of Stonewall Youth with a mission to offer sanctuary to LGBT+ adults, while centering the most vulnerable members of our community. It will offer a safe and validating space to ensure that our members survive, thrive, and have the resources and training necessary to advocate for themselves and others. We look forward to many intergenerational collaborations!
- Donate: You can make a tax-deductible donation at any time for our Capital Campaign at Network for Good.
- Invest and build your own equity: That’s right, you can own part percentage of our building! A supportive investor has started a Limited Liability Company (Liberation, LLC) to make it easy for community members to invest in the building. Our goal is to build equity for Stonewall Youth as well as for other community members who partner with us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- Volunteer: Along with always welcoming volunteers to help us in our day-to-day work, let us know if you would like to join our quest by being part of the team that makes it happen. It takes a village to create a queer youth center!
We’ve already raised more than $60,000 to purchase the building through donations and investments by our supporters.
Along with investments and donations from supporters like you, Stonewall Youth is also securing funds from other sources: grants from private and public sources; a small business loan; crowdfunding; and loans from community members, to be paid back with an attractive interest rate.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON OUR QUEST
Stonewall Youth has long considered the possibility of purchasing our own building, knowing that it would be a good investment, allow us to expand our programming, provide stability to youth and to the organization, give us the opportunity to launch exciting and needed new entrepreneurial ventures, and would be an asset to our community. In the past, Stonewall has decided to put its resources into programs and in renting a space to make those programs possible.
It’s possible that we wouldn’t have decided to purchase at this time if we weren’t once again being forced to move. For more than seven years, Stonewall Youth has been fortunate to inhabit a very affordable building in downtown Olympia. We share a kitchen and storage space with the Pierce County Aids Foundation (PCAF). PCAF has been very generous to Stonewall and other groups, in that they let us use their large meeting space for free. Our expansions in programming and participants meant that our space was too small. In 2015, we more than doubled our space by expanding into the adjacent office that used to house PiPE (Partners in Prevention Education.)
At the end of 2015, Stonewall Youth found out our current building was in the process of being sold, and that the development plans of the prospective buyer would most likely mean that we and all of the other tenants would have to move out in spring of 2016. This was at the time we were happily expanding into the adjacent office. We were very disappointed that we’d have to leave. Our office wasn’t in great shape, but it was cheap and spacious.
When the sale went through in early 2016, the new owner was unclear for several months about when we would have to vacate. We were finally able to negotiate staying put until at least February of 2017. (Later negotiations led to an extension to March or April of this year.)
Meanwhile, we continued to engage in a full-fledged search for a new space to lease. Many spaces weren’t appropriate because they weren’t ADA accessible, or weren’t on a busline, etc. We found several suitable spaces downtown and in other parts of Olympia and Lacey. All were much more expensive than what we’ve paid during Stonewall Youth’s history, for the same amount of space. Gentrification and development means that rental prices are rising beyond the affordability of community organizations.
We recognized at an even deeper level how lucky/clever Stonewall had been to secure a very low price in our current space. Moving into a comparably sized space — even ones less desirable than our current space — would mean that we’d be paying at least double our current monthly rent.
During our search we also found some surprisingly affordable places to purchase. Owning our ownplace seemed like an impossible dream, but as we looked into the possibility it became more and more apparent that it was indeed possible and would be the best course of action. The prospect of locking ourselves into yet another lease seemed like the wrong move to make at this point in our organization’s development.
For 25 years, Stonewall Youth has regularly paid at least 10%-20% of our yearly income towards rent. That means we’re handing off our community’s donations to landlords instead of building our organization’s equity and increasing Stonewall’s ability to contribute to our community. Some of our landlords have been community-minded folks who we don’t mind paying for their services. Others have been out-of-town developers who we weren’t so happy about supporting.
Stonewall Youth has also had to move about ten times in its 25-year history. Some of these moves were propelled by positive circumstances, such as needing more space because of expanding programs. Even these beneficial moves were taxing on our limited resources. But most of the moves were caused by the problem we’re facing right now: being kicked out because of new owners who want to develop a building for a different or more expensive use.
LGBTQ+ youth — many of whom have experienced homelessness or other types of instability and marginalization — want and deserve the permanence of the place in which they seek refuge, build memories, make art, dance, support each other, share skills, heal, and grow.
Our supporters tell us they want to see their donations, grants, and volunteer hours build sustainable growth of services and programs. Along with supporting our programs, they’re enthusiastic about investing in property that has long-term benefits for Stonewall Youth, our collaborating organizations, and our community. We want our generous donations from community members to build equity that will fundamentally change the pattern of rental insecurity for Stonewall Youth and for other allied non-profits within our community.
THERE’S NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT TO INVEST IN OUR COMMUNITY’S FUTURE! We need your support to purchase our new LGBTQ+ Center. Thanks very much for your interest. YOU ROCK!