First look at renovation plans for the GLBT Center

By : Jamie Hyman
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Orlando – The GLBT Center will receive $147,000 in grant funding that will go toward a major renovation of The Center’s headquarters on Mills Ave.

The grant, announced at the organization’s Black and White Gala fundraiser held at the Orlando Museum of Art Oct. 4, is a Community Development Block Grant comprised of federal funds approved and distributed by the City of Orlando. The grant dollars represent 75 percent of total renovation funds. In order to receive the full amount, The Center must raise the other 2 percent – about $50,000—by the end of 2014.

In addition to an exterior and interior facelift, the renovation will include new air conditioning, new windows and the HIV counseling space will expand from one to four offices.

“It’ll change everything that you know about the center,” said Tim Vargas, president of The Center’s board of directors. “We will not look the same six months that we do today. That’s something that I am thrilled to the gills about.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Russell Walker, assistant executive director of The Center. “I’ve had an office the last three month no air conditioning.”

Vargas said they’ll be signing the final contacts for the grant in the coming weeks. There is no timeline yet, but Vargas said according to his conversations with their city partners, The Center is ahead of the game.

“The center is light years ahead of all other grantees this year in receiving competitive bids for work on the building,” he said. “We already have a lot of the groundwork laid.”

Although there is no timeline, Vargas said he would like to see the work finished by March of 2015 to coincide with The Center board of directors’ next retreat and strategic planning session.

The renovation project comes during a time of major changes for The Center. It recently hired a new executive director, Terry DeCarlo. They’ve also hired Lindsay Kincaide as a new HIV coordinator. Kincaide begins her role Oct. 10.

“The new leadership means changing the way that we view a community center,” said Vargas, stating that they’re moving on from solely focusing on HIV testing and focusing on working with the local senior population and collaborating with other community organizations. “All of those changes had to take place in order for us to move to the next level.”

Walker said now that DeCarlo has been hired and he can step down from his temporary role as interim executive director, he’ll focus on The Center’s new GED program. He said it’s a collaboration with Orange County Public Schools and they’re hoping to have it running by February 2015.

“It’s a new face to the Center,” said Walker, “every aspect—the new staff, new programs, new building. We’re trying to let to community see we’re really pushing to be something Orlando can be proud of.”

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