In the face of financial challenges brought on by COVID-19, the Jim Toy Community Center (JTCC) will close its physical office space, located at 319 Braun Court in Ann Arbor, at the end of January.
The volunteer-run organization, which hosts Ann Arbor Pride and has been serving the local LGBTQ community for the last 27 years, will continue to provide services virtually.
"People can absolutely expect the same level of care and support," says JTCC president Joe Schoch. "All that's different is that we're asking people to reach out to us through our website and through Facebook."
Schoch, who describes the decision as "incredibly difficult," adds that JTCC leadership intends to open a new brick-and-mortar location in the future. In the meantime, he's optimistic that transitioning to a fully virtual landscape could help, rather than hinder, the organization's reach. He points to feedback from last year's virtual Pride event, which was attended by about 20,000 people across 11 states. Before the pandemic, the event had always been a live, in-person celebration.
"People told us that due to medical reasons they wouldn't have been able to be around large groups anyway. Others didn't want to celebrate Pride in public and were grateful for the privacy," Schoch says. "The feedback really made us consider the importance of accessibility beyond COVID-19."
JTCC launched a $30,000 GoFundMe campaign on Jan. 5 to help move the organization beyond the pandemic. At press time, the campaign had raised over $5,700. A portion of the contributions will help to offset current financial struggles due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some will also go toward maintaining programming and building a capital fund that would support the opening of a new office space.
Noting that the campaign received about $3,000 in the first day alone, Schoch says the support is a humbling reminder of the importance of JTCC's next chapter.
"We want to be good stewards of the donations that we receive and serve the people in our county who use our resources," he says. "We recognize that we are so much to so many people. We won't be in our building, but we will still be here for those who need us."
For more Concentrate coverage of our community's response to the COVID-19 crisis, click here.
Jaishree Drepaul-Bruder is a freelance writer and editor currently based in Ann Arbor. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Photo courtesy of the Jim Toy Community Center.