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It is with regret that Gay Central Valley announces our ceasing operations of the Merced LGBT Community Center and Merced Full Spectrum. Daily operations will end today, July 1st 2015. We are are seeking someone else to take over the project and keep the Merced LGBT Community Center alive.

The Merced LGBT Center was opened in the fall of 2014. Gay Central Valley entered into an agreement with Merced Full Spectrum, an existing LGBT organization in Merced, to oversee and operate the Community Center.

Gay Central Valley worked with Merced Full Spectrum for over a year before the Merced LGBT Community Center opened. Our goal was to build the foundation of Merced Full Spectrum so that a local group in Merced would be behind the operations of the Center while Gay Central Valley would stand as the nonprofit organization and financial manager of the space. Gay Central Valley’s goal, from the beginning, was to get behind Merced and provide the structural foundation to support the local efforts to open, operate and sustain an LGBT Community Center.

Unfortunately, after opening the LGBT Center in Merced, the team we had in place in Merced began to choose other paths. Many involved in Merced Full Spectrum left to pursue other avenues and the group began to lose its members. Merced Full Spectrum has now closed down it’s group completely. This left Gay Central Valley in the unfortunate position of trying to operate the Merced Center from a distance, which was never our intention.

Gay Central Valley has always had the goal of establishing a presence across the Central Valley but only in as much as those in the various communities are the ones to staff and sustain those entities. While Merced has willing and able volunteers staffing the space, daily operations were crippled by a lack of local management.

We are an organization of volunteers. No one who works for Gay Central Valley is paid, including the board of directors. This means that everyone has a “day” job and other obligations. When we are unable to find people that have the ability and the passion to support a daily community center while maintaining other obligations, it becomes difficult to keep the doors open. Additionally, we cannot sign annual leases if we are not supported by financial contributions that can sustain those costs.

That being said, we would like to see the Merced LGBT Community Center survive. We are seeking another organization to take over the space. Our lease ends August 1st and the property management company would like to have another tenant take over the space at that time. Three of the current offices are under sub-leases, which helps with monthly operating expenses. We ask that any other organization that would be willing to step up and take over the funding and daily operations contact us as soon as possible. There may be funding sources still available in Merced should a group step up to take over the project. We can connect you with those sources.

We put our heart and souls into this project and were able to establish the first ever LGBT Community Center in Merced. We are very proud of that. While that may be ending, it also gives us hope. It’s important that we maintain and expand our presence of community centers across the Central Valley of California. Marriage equality is not the end of our battle, it’s just the next step. We need spaces where those rejected and disenfranchised can walk through the door and know they are acknowledged.

We would like to thank all former members of Merced Full Spectrum and all the volunteers who have kept the center up and running for the last year. Remember, stay visible and active in your community. You are making a difference!