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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Equality Organization Planned for North Baltimore

In an effort to provide needed services and programs to residents in Charles Village and Waverly, a new non-profit called the North Baltimore Equality (NBEq) Center is being planned. Using the catchy theme “Let’s be Bmore Equal,” the goal, according to founder Kelly Neel, is “to bring a small community center environment with programming and resources through partnerships for all ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, religions, etc. with a focus on LGBTQ individuals, in addition to programming and services for all underserved populations.” 

On the new website, an additional explanation is offered stating, “While our main focus is to provide a safe and welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community, we also provide support to the broader community by offering low-cost access to technology, programs, events and educational workshops that boost involvement in the arts and environment, and provide skills for healthy, smart, sustainable living. All we ask is that those who choose to use our services make a conscious effort to treat everyone they meet kindly and equitably and strive to “Bmore Equal”. 
Before any plans are set in concrete, Neel is requesting the community to complete a brief survey on the website.  Respondents are asked to choose among a series of potential community programs ranging from adult education/job readiness to bicycle safety.  People can write in their own choices as well.

For community services, among the available choices are a drop-in center, a media center and studio space available for artists and performers for a nominal hourly rate.  Again, the public can add others as they see fit.
In addition, several support groups were proposed including a youth group, a transgender support group, LGBTQ-friendly Alcoholics Anonymous among others.

The website offers a Project Outline, an About page, a Volunteer Application page as well as the survey.  The Project Outline provides the organization’s leadership structure and responsibilities as well as details concerning the proposed programs and services.
Neel, who was the interim executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center of Baltimore and Central Maryland (GLCCB) before resigning this past September, acknowledges that NBEq intends to offer programs and services that have historically been operated by the GLCCB.  She points out that these services are needed throughout the city, not just in Mount Vernon and that GLCCB executive director Joel Tinsley-Hall is “100 per cent on board.”  Neel is seeking the GLCCB to be a partner in this endeavor along with other community organizations.

Kelly Neel
“I see the NBEq Center as a way to bring together the various LGBTQ organizations in Baltimore City to collaboratively tackle the issues our community faces,” Neel told Baltimore OUTloud.  “If we are all working in partnership towards the same goals, it is much more attractive to potential funding groups and foundations. Applying for grants jointly and in partnership allows the funders’ dollars to travel further; killing two birds with one stone, or in a more PETA friendly terms, allowing two organizations to serve their community through one grant.”  A first year budget is estimated between $60,000 and $65,000.
Space to house the NBEq Center’s programs and services are dependent upon the extent in which the partnering organizations become involved and location feasibility.  Initially, the 29th Street Center is thought of as a good fit because planned programs overlap with existing programs at the Center; however, a partnership has not yet been established. Additional space options are indicated on the Project Outline on the website.

The area in which NBEq intends to serve contains the most concentrated population of LGBT folks of anywhere in the Baltimore vicinity.  However, Neel intends to offer programs and services throughout the city and beyond if this project is successful.

"These services are needed throughout the city, not just in Mount Vernon."--Kelly Neel

“I have stated before that the needs of the community in North Baltimore are different than the needs of the community in say Canton/Fells Point, which differ from the needs in Midtown or Mount Vernon, and from Federal Hill to Druid Hill,” Neel explains. “My hope is that down the road, this type of targeted resource can be established through the North Baltimore Equality Center project by people in those communities. I do want to stress that this in no way implies that programs that are already established will be taken over; my goal is for the project to help support these programs and find a way to more easily house programs/resources in one cohesive location in each community in the city.” 

But now Neel’s focus is to get the organization established and running successfully to serve the North Baltimore population. “Haste makes waste; therefore, I want to make sure everything we do is well planned and supported so that each program can be executed successfully before taking on additional responsibilities and tasks.”
To keep up with developments, follow NBEq on Twitter @bmore_equal or on Facebook at facebook.com/bmoreequal.  Questions can be emailed to thecenter@bmoreequal.org.

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