Amidst a difficult year across our nation, the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Center has been very busy at work, making some amazing strides towards bettering the quality of living throughout our community. Their focus on the needs of the Valley’s broad population – youth through the elderly – often flies under the radar, however, so BGHV sat down with Center President Ginny Apuzzo to get the year-in-review.
BGHV: Ginny, you guys have kept the wheels turning this year! In starting 2009, what areas did the Center want to most strongly focus its efforts?
GA: We have indeed – the Center keeps its focus broad, doing our best to meet the needs of the entire Valley’s very broad population base. We continue our commitment to working in coalition to make schools a safer place for all youth. The training we extend to social service providers takes place throughout the year. Our affiliation with SAGE reflects our commitment to the elderly in our community.
BGHV: How was your work with youth received?
GA: You know, we are lucky to have some amazingly supportive school districts in our area – specifically in Arlington, Kingston and Rondout Valley. Working with the Ulster County Youth Bureau, GLSEN Hudson Valley and their student youth leaders, we set up a safe schools round table program. This open dialogue among counselors and school board members and administrators gives us a chance to talk to them directly about LGBTQ youth in their schools. Being gay is enough to deal with at times – adding on the angst of high school certainly doesn’t help. This program has been wonderfully successful in giving everyone a clearer perspective on how to help and support students as they develop on many different levels.
BGHV: That’s great – I’m getting all choked up just thinking about those awkward high school memories.
GA: [laughs] Oh, believe me, we’ve all been there. We work with Planned Parenthood to set up a monthly sexual health clinic at the Center that offers free testing to anyone who’d like it. Groups like AIDS-Related Community Services, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Queen’s Galley Food Pantry, Family of Woodstock and the Ulster County Department of Social Services have also been integral in helping us develop programs to help those who are going through various stages of difficulties.
BGHV: Now how about the other end of our population – what’s the status of elderly care in our community?
GA: Well, getting old is never something we want to plan for, but it’s very important. We’re working now to set up the systems we want to see in place when we reach that stage of our lives, so we’ve been meeting regularly with the Ulster County Long-Term Care Council, Elder Abuse Coalition and Alzheimer’s Association to make sure that the needs of the elderly LGBTQ community are known and not forgotten. We’re all going to get there someday, after all!
BGHV: What would you say has been the Center’s most effective tool for truly connecting with our community and getting these messages out to the people who need to hear them?
GA: Well that’s definitely a question with two answers – the first is our annual Come Out & Find Out conference, which we held this past fall. We gathered over 150 service organization employees and commercial employers from Dutchess, Ulster, Orange, Sullivan, Greene and Columbia counties for a day of seminars about all aspects of life as an LGBTQ person. Breakout sessions were held covering myriad topics such as youth tolerance training, estate and financial planning, and especially this year’s theme of “cultural competence.” We had lecturers speaking on the multi-faceted cultures that exist within our community – ethnic, religious, social, etc. It was a really inspiring day that garnered lots of great feedback.
BGHV: So then what’s the second part of that answer?
GA: Hudson Valley Pride! That event is such a capstone for the Center and our community. Last year over 2,000 people connected in the streets of New Paltz and celebrated the diversity that makes us, and the Hudson Valley, so special.
BGHV: With 2010 now in swing, what does the Center have in store for us?
GA: We were very fortunate to be so productive at the Center this year – we’ve actually been operating with part- and full-time employees to keep everything humming along. While our staff will help us to keep all our gears moving and further dive into other areas of the community, our upcoming Gala on Saturday, March 13 at the Grandview in Poughkeepsie promises to be a fabulous event. Senator Tom Duane, sponsor of the Marriage Equality Bill, will be our special guest that night. Nathaniel Bodon of Marlboro, who was dismissed from the military while serving in Iraq under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, will receive a special award for his courage in standing up to the absurdity of the policy.
One other major event which requires significant planning these next few months is the Center’s Hudson Valley March and Pride Festival 2010 – which takes place on Sunday, June 6th – and we look forward to working with Big Gay Hudson Valley on making the premiere event of the year!
BGHV: With all this going on, how does one get involved with the Center?
GA: You can visit our website at www.lgbtqcenter.org to find out what we’re up to, grab our schedule of happenings or check on drop-in hours. Volunteers and membership in the Center are always needed and everyone is welcome to be part of our community.