The Center on Colfax offers a range of programming for members of the LGBTQ community. Since former CEO Debra Pollock joined the organization, she has helped expand services, including a new program supporting members of the transgender community. Rainbow Alley is for LGBTQ youth ages 11 to 21. For older members of the community, The Center offers SAGE of the Rockies and Capitol Hill Care Link. Legal services also are available. Last year, Pollock said the organization had more than 55,000 visits.
Pollock also worked to expand the historic research being done on the LGBTQ community.
“A lot of our history has been suppressed,” Pollock said.
In addition to collecting source material and having a historian at The Center, the organization has begun a recorded history of its members.
Not learning about your community’s history can lead to feelings of isolation, a reason for the impetus to start collecting that information, Pollock said.
“Everybody has a story,” Pollock said.
The Center added more family programming, too, with meet-ups for new parents and a holiday party where families can take pictures with Santa.
“You can bring your family — no matter what your family looks like — and take pictures of Santa,” she said. “We make an effort to create opportunities to get people together.”
For more information on The Center on Colfax and the programming it offers, go to https://lgbtqcolorado.org.
The Center on Colfax bought its building at 1301 E. Colfax Ave. in 2009. For outgoing CEO Diane Pollock, who led a $3.2 million capital campaign to buy and renovate the building, it was important to find the community center a permanent home so that LGBTQ Coloradans would always have a safe place to be.
“It’s been above and beyond our expectations,” she said.
Roy Wood, a former volunteer at The Center, used to come to The Center every day after he retired. He worked as the volunteer librarian.
“He was of a generation where he couldn’t come out to his family, couldn’t come out at work, so he came here every single day,” Pollock said.
When Wood died, he left 90% of his estate to The Center. The gift led to the vision of buying a permanent space for the community center, Pollock said. Part of the $1.2 million estate went toward the building’s down payment.
“Roy is still very much a part of what we do every day here,” Pollock said.
The Center on Colfax, which serves the LGBTQ community, has been going through quite a bit of change over the past few months: The 43-year-old organization changed its name in March to better reflect the people using its services. And now, in the latest transition, Debra Pollock has stepped down as its CEO.
Pollock — who wanted to advocate for medical care in the LGBTQ community — first started volunteering with The Center in 2003, when it was known as the GLBT Community Center. She joined the nonprofit’s development team a year later and became CEO in 2014.
“For 17 years we watched our fellow community members pass away from HIV/AIDS,” she said. “I realized at that point that if we don’t stick up for ourselves, no one else is going to do it for us.”
The Center has begun a national search for a replacement for Pollock, whose last day was July 26. She is moving to California with her wife to enjoy warmer weather. Linda Boedeker is serving as interim CEO.
When reflecting on her 15 years at The Center, Pollock counts among her proudest accomplishments expanding the center’s services and finding the organization a permanent home. The Center bought the building it resides in at 1301 E. Colfax Ave. in 2009.
PrideFest, the annual LGBTQ community event, is hosted by The Center. This is unique, Pollock said. Very few community centers in the United States run Pride events, which are usually run by a stand-alone organization whose sole purpose is organizing the event. During Pollock’s time at The Center, Pride expanded into a two-day event. The nonprofit also added a family area so that everyone could participate.
For David Garcia, board president of The Center who began volunteering in 2005, the addition of the family area was one of the most crucial changes to the event because it allows family members come to support people in the LGBTQ community. Couples in the LGBTQ community also bring their children.
“That is, I think, what really makes me proud. It’s exactly what the community needs,” Garcia said. “From the outside looking in, who may not quite understand the LGBTQ community itself, it gives them a chance to say `They’re not that much different from us.’ ”
The idea has also started to spread to other Pride events in the nation, he added.
Although The Center offers a wealth of services for all ages, such as Rainbow Alley for youths and SAGE of the Rockies for adults 50 and older, the nonprofit has come mean much more to many in Colorado’s LGBTQ community, said Garcia, noting that its reach also spreads to surrounding states that may not offer as many services.
Garcia started as a front-desk volunteer. He had just moved to Colorado and wanted to meet people within the LGBTQ community. The gay bars in Denver are easy to find, but represent only a small sliver of the community here, he said. Volunteering at The Center helped him build lasting friendships that he treasures.
“I got to communicate firsthand with everybody that the center touched,” Garcia said. “It really touches me and sticks with me and I’m proud to be associated in any role.”
Volunteering is also how Garcia got to know Pollock, whose calm demeanor and soft touch will be “dearly missed,” he said.
For Pollock, The Center is a place where people can grow and also learn about LGBTQ history, which is not well-known. The relationships people create are important, and for Pollock, The Center has also given her a place for professional growth.
“My favorite part about working at The Center is getting to bring my whole self to work,” Pollock said. “When you’re LGBT you’re constantly assessing every situation — see if it’s safe to come our or not.”
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