SPCC Appoints General Manager Of Flagship Program
Barbara L.B. Storey Takes The Reins at 24 Downie St.
Stratford, ON, April 5, 2022 – The Stratford Pride Community Centre (SPCC) Board of Directors at a meeting last night appointed Barbara L.B. Storey as general manager of the community organization’s headquarters in downtown Stratford. SPCC’s HQ at 24 Downie St. will contain its central offices, community meeting rooms, resource centre and library and drop-in centre when it opens June 1, 2022. “Barbara has the kind of personality that will make you feel welcome the minute you walk in the door,” said President and Chairman of the Board Bruce Duncan Skeaff. Born and raised in Stratford, Barbara moved to New York City as a young adult, earned a degree in art history at Barnard College of Columbia University, and worked many years in the publishing world. After the shock of 9/11, she decided it was time to leave New York and returned to Stratford. Over the last 20 years, Barbara has become an important part of the arts community and specializes in fine art photography and digital art. She is a key player in Stratford’s Art in the Park. She also has experience in retail management, rounding out her qualifications for the GM’s job at SPCC-HQ. “I see the first challenge as getting the word out that the Centre is there. The next challenge is to make sure it is serving the needs of the people it’s meant to serve,” said Barbara. Barbara will follow the policy direction of the Board of Directors in getting the space ready for opening and then will oversee its daily operations with the help of an assistant general manager and a growing corps of volunteers. She reports directly and jointly to SPCC’s president and its chief administrative officer. Skeaff said more volunteer leadership announcements are expected this week. While the doors will be unlocked June 1, SPCC HQ will hold an open house and ribbon cutting Sat., June 4, 10am-4pm. To support the SPCC, TD Bank Group will provide $30,000 over three years, and United Way Perth-Huron (UWPH) will provide $20,000 this year. The SPCC serves people living in Stratford and Perth County, those who are visiting/plan to visit, and those who are looking for a welcoming place to move permanently. SPCC works to advance our community as a progressive, inclusive and welcoming place to live, work, visit or do business. The centre will be a valuable resource for businesses and organizations wanting to learn how to be more LGBTQ-positive in their interactions with both clients/customers and staff. SPCC also publishes the Stratford Pride Guide, a directory of businesses that welcome LGBTQ+ customers and clients. Stratford Winter Pride – Love is Love, is the SPCC’s annual major fundraiser that has just wrapped up its inaugural weekend run that fundraised almost $6,000 for services and programs. -30- Media Contact: Bruce Duncan Skeaff firstname.lastname@example.org
SPCC - A New Week -- Imagine It With Me
by Bruce Duncan Skeaff, President
Imagine it with me.
It’s Wednesday morning 10 weeks from today in downtown Stratford. The volunteer general manager unlocks the door in a balancing act with coffee and pastries donated by a local shop. It’s opening morning at the Stratford Pride Community Centre Headquarters Office (SPCC-HQ) at 24 Downie St.
They turn on the lights and fire up one of the centre’s laptops to look at the schedule for the next week. Meanwhile, the volunteer assistant general manager has arrived and starts making coffee.
An hour or so later, guys begin arriving for the first meeting of the Gay Men Over 50 group. They make a bee line for the coffee and pastries before relaxing on the couch and arm chairs in one of the two meeting rooms – the one designed like a livingroom. (The other is more classroom-style.) The new Women Over 50 group comes in at 2 pm for tea. A couple of people saunter in, having a look around for the first time and perusing the lending library they heard about.
It’s Thursday evening now and that means it’s the RuPaul’s Drag Race viewing meet-up. We’ve got room for 10 tonight. (Our evening capacity will grow over time.)
Friday morning, a group of queer artists comes in to hang their first exhibit in the SPCC HQ meeting rooms in time for a busy first weekend of Pride Month.
It’s now Friday 7:30pm and our Stratford Queer Movie Club members gather at The Little Prince Cinema for the first of our monthly screenings. It’s just around the corner from the SPCC-HQ and we rent it out one Friday night a month. Tonight it’s What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. So many people have booked tickets that we’re showing it twice that night, back-to-back just like the good old days in movie houses. Will anyone come dressed like Bette or Joan? It is Pride Weekend, afterall.
Saturday morning, it’s the all day open house at the SPCC-HQ. The Mayor comes by to cut the ribbon.
Sunday is busy. Features Restaurant has moved in downstairs from HQ and a bunch of people have grabbed takeout breakfast and brought it upstairs to eat while re-watching RuPaul. A bunch of late teens have arrived with their parents – members of the new PFLAG group in Stratford – to put the finishing touches on their costumes for that afternoon’s Stratford-Perth Pride group’s march and picnic. In the evening it’s back with the SPCC, this time, over to the nearby City Hall Auditorium for “An Evening With Felice Picano”, the best-selling gay novelist.
Monday afternoon, a committee putting together a phoning and visiting program to LGBTQ+ seniors meets for the first time. Tuesday, the Regional HIV/AIDS Connection education liaison spends the first of regular sessions at the SPCC-HQ – the first time in memory the organization has had a presence in Stratford. No more traveling to London.
It’s Wednesday again. There’s a new Trans-In-Your-20s Group coming in this afternoon. Book Club is in this evening. It’s the start of another week at the SPCC.
Stratford Pride Community Centre To Open Its Doors
Organization keeps promise to open within a year
Stratford, ON, March 21, 2022 – The Stratford Pride Community Centre (SPCC) will open June 1, 2022. “We’ve been providing information services online since August 4, 2021. We said we intended to open a bricks-and-mortar location by June, Pride Month, 2022,” said Bruce Duncan Skeaff, president and chair of the SPCC. “We have kept that promise to our community.” The SPCC will open a headquarters office (SPCC HQ) at 24 Downie St., that will act as a central resource centre and meeting space. “There are a lot of people seeking out support groups that just haven’t existed because there hasn’t been a space to meet. Or what space exists has been beyond the means of a small group. Now, we will fill that need, almost always at no cost. We will also run programs and some simple drop-in opportunities,” he said. “We’ll also have a lending library.” SPCC HQ will hold an open house and ribbon cutting Sat., June 4, 10am-4pm. To support the SPCC, TD Bank Group will provide $30,000 over three years, and United Way Perth-Huron (UWPH) will provide $20,000 this year. "At TD, we are committed to helping build strong, inclusive communities, where everyone has the opportunity to feel connected, respected and confident in what the future holds for them." says TD District Vice President, Ester Condello. "Supporting initiatives like the Stratford Pride Community Centre, is one of the ways we work to reach this goal and continue our journey to a more inclusive tomorrow." “United Way is delighted to be part of Stratford Pride’s announcement of a physical space for the SPCC,” added UWPH Executive Director Ryan Erb. “We understand how important this project is when it comes to providing a welcoming, affordable gathering space for the local LGBTQ+ community. We’re look forward to the SPCC’s opening later this year.” The “centre” will also be composed various activities throughout the community. SPCC is Stratford's first LGBTQ+ community centre serving what has been called "Canada's gayest small city". The SPCC serves people living in Stratford and Perth County, those who are visiting/plan to visit, and those who are looking for a welcoming place to move permanently. SPCC works to advance our community as a progressive, inclusive and welcoming place to live, work, visit or do business. The centre will be a valuable resource for businesses and organizations wanting to learn how to be more LGBTQ-positive in their interactions with both clients/customers and staff. SPCC also publishes the Stratford Pride Guide, a directory of businesses that welcome LGBTQ+ customers and clients. Stratford Winter Pride – Love is Love, is the SPCC’s annual major fundraiser that has just wrapped up its inaugural weekend run. -30- Media Contact: Bruce Duncan Skeaff email@example.com
Message From The President – January 31/22
January was a busy month for us and February is going to be just as much so.
Running through the month is our fundraiser “Valentine’s/Family Day Pride Pack”. Make a donationof $55 to the Stratford Pride Community Centre & Pride Guide and get a total of $70 in discounts at seven businesses offering an array of goods and services from traditional Valentine’s purchases and gifts for the home to entertainment options for Family Day.
Ticket sales for Stratford Winter Pride – Love Is Love are back on, as we chose March 18-21 as our postponement days following January’s lockdown. I’m very happy that TD Bank Group has come aboard as a major sponsor with a $4,000 donation.
As well, Barb Ford has been very generous in donating the Queen’s Inn function spaces as our host hotel and is offering a block of 20 rooms for all inclusive packages of rooms, meals and show tickets. The Gold package offers a third night free. All those are on sale now and we’re promoting them on LGBT Facebook group pages across SW Ontario.
A number of B&Bs and inns are offering special Winter Pride rates, including third night free. Those are great for people wanting accommodation without a full package, leaving them free to go for single ticket sales to the Saturday night dinner and comedy show, and the Sunday drag brunch. You’ll find a list and other information on our Winter Pride web page. Single ticket sales start February 18.
We’re also thankful for the generosity of Deb Hotchkiss and Partners In Employment, for sponsoring the all-weekend, free, no-alcohol drop-in centre in the hotel’s Edinburgh Room for snacks and non-alcoholic drinks.
Our entertainment troupes, Gay AF Comedy and TroyBoy Entertainment are adding to our promotional efforts with highlights on their own websites and social feeds, tripling our audience reach in the province, including in the GTA.
Meanwhile, our offer to businesses to join the Pride Guide is going out in the mail this month. We’re talking to Hilary Nichol, the Stratford Festival’s company manager, about including a link to the Guide in the welcoming material that goes out to all the artists arriving at the festival and in town and also coordinates the festival handbook.
And, last but not least, the February installment of the Queer Book of the Month, our reading promotion with the Stratford Public Library, Juice 107 and the Stratford Times is due out in a few days.
All the best,
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
Stratford Pride Community Centre & Pride Guide
Wow! What a ride these first five months have been.
On July 20, we sent a letter to 200 Stratford businesses testing the waters of support for an LGBTQ+ organization that would do more than hold Pride events one month a year, but would help build community and a sense of belonging every one of the 12 months in a year. That would provide, in one online place, the important information that people need when living here, visiting here, or who are thinking of moving here. That would alleviate social isolation and its ill effects with the creation of an LGBT community centre.
The resounding response was, “this has been too long in coming. How can we help?” and an oversubscription of 20% in response to our first GoFundMe fundraising effort when we launched the organization on August 4 as the Stratford Pride Community Centre.
Our first achievement was the posting of links to health and personal support resources on our website, StratfordPride.com. Opening the website was, in itself, an accomplishment – a permanent, reliable, consistent source of information 365 days a year. Along with a busy, vibrant set of social media channels on facebook, instagram and twitter.
This Fall, our Vice President Steve Walters lead a successful public competition to find a logo, a unique identifier, for our organization, backing up community support with almost $1,000 in donated prizes for the winner, Craig Sullivan, a Stratford software developer.
Our Secretary-Treasurer, Ian Middleton, worked with our legal counsel, The Ross Firm, through the process of becoming federally incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. General directors Dayna Prest, Bonnie Baynham and Fort Papalia are on board, offering their knowledge and expertise to help us build a successful community organization that brings real solutions and concrete support to the LGBTQ+ community in and around Stratford.
And, as a connection to the community, we joined with the Stratford Public Library, 107.1 Radio, and the Stratford Times to bring you the Queer Book of the Month, a review of a book from the library that has LGBTQ+ characters and/or author.
I’ve been busy over the past two months putting together a weekend of fun and entertainment to relieve social isolation and the mid-winter blues with Winter Pride. It’s a major fundraiser for us, too, so be sure to come out, and to tell your out-of-town friends to come visit you and Stratford that weekend. We’ve got special hotel, meals and entertainment packages as well as single tickets. We’ll be announcing a March date for Winter Pride soon. Don’t miss it.
Canvassing of local businesses for the Pride Guide begins early in the new year. For the small amount of $50 annually, a business or organization can list itself in the online guide as being welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, and gets a sticker for its front window identifying itself as a supporter of the SPCC. This is a project we want completed in time for the new tourist season. From what we hear so far, businesses think this is a bargain as a way to directly address themselves to the LGBTQ+ market that Stratford has for too long ignored.
And, of course, the big prize for us – we have an offer of 1,000 sq. ft. of space downtown to house the community centre. The board of directors will begin considering the offer at its next meeting, January 10, 2022. The offer comes with the security of a three-year lease and the challenge of coming up with funding for the initial term. A corporate sponsorship campaign is one option. We’re already fortunate to have TD Bank Group on board as a major sponsor of Winter Pride.
We also have an application in to United Way Perth Huron for funding under their one-year program of introductory funding for new community initiatives. A response to our application should come in March. And in the first week of January, we’ll be filing an application for funding with the My Main Street program of the Canadian Urban Institute. The program aims to “increase local vibrancy” by supporting projects...”that are designed to support economic and social benefits for equity seeking groups, including Francophone, women, Indigenous, racialized groups, Black communities, newcomers, youth (39 and under), people living with disabilities, the unhoused, low-income people, Trans or non-binary people, and or LGBQ+.
And volunteers from the LGBTQ+ community will become increasingly important during Winter Pride and when we open the community centre.
See you in the New Year!
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
Yesterday, Nov. 16, we took some time to celebrate a new logo for the Stratford Pride Community Centre (SPCC). Today, we behind the logo in the organization it represents turn to a more serious commemoration – Trans Awareness Week.
“Trans Awareness Week, occurring from November 13 to 19, 2021 marks a time to celebrate and honour the trans community and raise awareness around the continued adversity that trans people face in our society.
“Trans Awareness Week culminates into Trans Day of Remembrance (TDOR), on November 20, to honour the lives taken due to anti-trans violence. On TDOR, we also call for better protections from all levels of government for those in the trans community.” – Egale.ca
Last summer, in the early days of researching how we might construct SPCC,
· I heard the story of a trans woman who works in a local industrial setting being hassled over which washroom she was being permitted to use.
· I read about and later met a trans person so traumatized by life she had barely left her home in several years.
· Physical and mental health support resources to serve trans people are barely-there to not-there-at-all in Stratford and Huron-Perth. What is there is hard to find.
· There are no concrete social supports for trans people locally because there’s been nowhere reliable and consistent to host them and no funding reliable and consistent to support them.
· There are resources in Waterloo Region and London-Middlesex, but their government funding is, as usual, tied to their specific geographic regions.
And yet, as recently as last month, I heard stories of two trans people contacting social services in Stratford, having moved here under the impression that Stratford, being a heavily arts-oriented community, would be a welcoming, safe and supportive place to move, work and live.
On Aug. 4, we launched the Stratford Pride Community Centre with a two-part mission:
· alleviate social isolation and its effects in the local queer population by developing and operating a year-round community centre
· create a single online source of information, the Stratford Pride Guide, valuable to queer people who
Ø live locally
Ø visit Stratford
Ø are considering Stratford as a place to move to permanently
What can you do to help?
To be honest, what we really could use is a philanthropic corporate citizen or organization to donate 1,000 sq. ft of accessible downtown space as the home of the Community Centre.
When we come to your business door in the next weeks, say “yes” to participating in the Stratford Pride Guide and support our work with your $50 donation. You’ll get a sticker for your window, a listing in the online Pride Guide, and our solid efforts in the spring in the form of a media campaign to draw more LGBTQ+ tourism dollars to Stratford and your business.
Give what you can to our GoFundMe account: https://gofund.me/5e15f8e7
Tell your elected officials at all levels to walk the walk, as well as talking the talk, and provide reliable, consistent funding for resources to support our trans community – our friends, our family members, neighbours, our employers, customers and employees.
And remember the need, even when this week is over.
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
Stratford Pride Community Centre
Rainbow-Washing the Stratford Dollar?
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
President, SPCC & SPG
The most interesting question I got last night while briefing the Stratford City Centre BIA directors on The Stratford Pride Guide was “What if a business buys a Pride Guide listing to get access to the LGBTQ+ market, but isn’t really queer-friendly?”
It’s a legitimate question. The short answer is, “What happens these days if a business operates under any kind of false pretenses? The internet happens to them.
People are used to going home and writing a review of their experience, good or bad. On Google reviews, people can rate just about anything. For books, there’s “goodreads.com”. In the tourism and hospitality sector, there’s myriad sites, the granddaddy of them all probably being TripAdvisor.com. Many businesses invite product and service comments right on their websites. Let’s not forget Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The practice of pretending to be LGBTQ+-friendly – talking the talk, but not walking the walk”, is known as “rainbow-washing” or “pink-washing”, adapted from the longtime phrase “to white wash” something, or sweep under the rug, current or past bad deeds or attitudes for profit or other self-serving motive.
Let’s back up now and look at some history to see how it gets us to The Stratford Pride Guide”.
Did you see the 2018 Hollywood movie Green Book? The title refers to The Negro Motorist Green Book, a travel book begun in 1936 in the segregated United States that listed hotels and restaurants and other businesses in the South that would serve blacks without overt discrimination or threats of violence.
Fast forward 30 years...
“In 1964, a businessman published a book of all the gay bars he knew from his constant travels across the United States. This book fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Despite its petite size, this book was an impressive accomplishment. Each one of the listings he had visited himself. Every last copy of the book he sold himself. The name of this pioneering businessman: Bob Damron.” –damron.com
It was, in short, the Green Book for gay men. When I came out of the closet in 1992, Damron’s and its imitators like Spartacus, along with some pioneering openly gay big city magazines were the only places you could find hotel, bar and restaurant listings clearly identified as gay-friendly and gay-owned. These few books were how you could find your tribe when away from home. And you didn’t buy it at Indigo/Chapters. You found it only in Toronto’s Gay Village at Glad Day Books.
In 2002, in one of those paperback guides, I saw a first mention of a gay B&B in Stratford – 100 Church St. It’s long gone, as is the one “gay-friendly” bar listed, the old Down The Street.
Damron lives on in a website, but as they say, it ain’t what it used to be. A lot of listings are dated and no longer correct.
In the bigger cities – the size of Kitchener-Waterloo or London, if there were a gay bar, restaurant or B&B, they’d have their own websites and a quick google search of your destination plus a couple of key words like “LGBTQ+ hotel” would bring up listings. Not anymore. Online dating and hooking-up ran most of them out of business. Even the big gay villages in Toronto and Montreal are shrinking. Some of this shift, happily, is because queer folk don’t feel as much of a need to live in a segregated enclave, relatively safe from discrimination and violence by strength of numbers. These days, we’re all living together, people of all sorts, a lot more.
Let’s jump to today. Research done at the University of Western Ontario examined what’s it’s like to live LGBTQ+ in Stratford. The author spent 2019 and 2020 interviewing people who lived here. "LGBTQ+ Sense of Place in the Stratford area" by Dayna Prest (uwo.ca). It’s 300 pages. Aim to read Chapter 5. What becomes clear are two things: people who live here feel a lack of connection to each other, a lack of community because a) information is hard to come by and b) the lack of a place where people could meet up for coffee with friends, maybe a movie night, a book club, etc.
From this, we came up with the ideas for The Stratford Pride Community Centre, and The Stratford Pride Guide.
The Centre was pretty easy to figure out; the Pride Guide a little harder. We knew we should include information for people who live here, people who visit, and people thinking of moving here. Government and quasi-government organizations such as the public health unit should get listings for free. That was a no-brainer. We’re a not-for-profit organization soon to receive (fingers crossed) our charity status and we need a way to recover costs for the Guide and the Community Centre. A modest annual $50 fee for a Guide listing and a window sticker was fair, we felt.
Right from the start we asked, “How do we judge who qualifies for the Guide?” Well, we don’t have roving legions of inspectors, and we don’t have the staff to provide the intensive training some large advocacy organizations provide, usually at significant cost. So like everybody else these days, we turn to the usefulness of the internet. The $50 fee is a donation to the Centre and the Guide, indicating a business’s support of us and the people we serve. The window sticker is the indication of that support for passersby, and the online listing is likewise for people at home, planning their trip to Stratford.
That brings us back to Tuesday night’s question – what if someone is not genuine in their motives?
Let’s start with another question: why would someone bother to cheat?
Did You Know:
· The Canadian Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer (LGBTQ+) travel market is valued at over $12 billion?
· LGBTQ+ travellers are loyal, as a priority frequently returning to where they felt welcome and safe.
· LGBTQ+ travel rebounds faster after industry shocks including post 9/11 and SARS.
· 90% of this market is already seeking travel opportunities inside Canada.
· LGBTQ+ travelers represent a major opportunity for recovery for the Canadian tourism industry.
As we see it, Stratford can no longer afford to miss out on opportunities to talk to these travellers directly.
But is it worth cheating? We think not. Stratford’s a small place. The internet is, too. And so is the LGBTQ+ community, when it comes down to it. Reputation flies fast. What do you want yours to be?
Meanwhile, the next time you as a consumer are out and about in Stratford and area, make sure to tell the businesses you know and trust and feel comfortable being yourself with that you want to see them in the Stratford Pride Guide. We’re easy to find: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
Stratford Pride Community Centre
Stratford Pride Guide
Stratford City Council
Good afternoon Your Worship and members of council.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.
Last Thursday, two days of work on a crosswalk outside City Hall’s front doors was completed. The work was to repaint the crosswalk on our public square, into the rainbow colours that are the international symbols of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transexual and more, Pride Movement.
Before daylight the next day, someone defaced it with a bucket of paint.
The fact that someone was so frightened of that symbol that he or she would go to such an extreme, demonstrates the power of that symbol.
The public response demonstrates the strength of their belief in the power of that symbol, and for what it stands.
Such actions of bigotry and prejudice always backfire. As Dr. Martin Luther King told us in 1968, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”.
Mr. Mayor, councillors, two years ago, a PhD student at the University of Western Ontario, a resident of St. Mary’s, named Dayna Prest, chose as her dissertation, a study of what it’s like to live as an LGBT person in Stratford.
She closely interviewed a diverse set of 25 residents over a period of time to discover and analyse tolerance and visibility and whether these people felt like they had a sense of place – a good place – a safe place – a welcome place – in Stratford.
I spent my Canada Day this year reading this brilliant piece of work and I urge anyone with an interest in the social welfare of our city to read all 300 pages as I did. In chapter 5 is the meat of what she was told by these Stratford residents:
· People feel there’s no consistent queer community. There is more visibility and connection in June, but what about the rest of the year?
· A need for centralized, accessible information about the LGBT community in the area is a priority.
· There is frustration over not being able to find out about events.
· Not everyone is on social media.
· People have a feeling of missing out on a specific event but also in a general sense that they’re missing out on a local queer community.
· This makes for a feeling of being disconnected and isolated particularly for those over 60
· The specific barrier is a lack of networking, institutionalized support and lack of resources.
· Support networks are central to people’s ability to survive and thrive in the area and their ability to be confident and unaffected by potential intolerance. Such as the defacing of the crosswalk last week.
· But insufficient resources have been a barrier to organizing in the Stratford area.
· Having space is important – dedicated space that is not a bar or shared with someone else.
· Lack of space is tied directly to cost and a lack of funding and/or support from established organizations, especially in cold months when booking indoor space involves having to pay.
· While the limited size of the population means it can be difficult getting sufficient numbers for some organized events, simply just having a presence, a drop-in centre, gives people refuge, friendship and a sense of belonging, and resources.
· The underlying point, they said, is not to stage events but to create more space and connection for people actively looking for a sense of community or support
· Stratford is trying to invite more people, they acknowledged.
· The question must address how to do this and make people feel welcome where the main industry caters to – their words, not mine -- old, rich, white people.
· Are we doing enough as a city to invite other people in?
· There are people here passionate about change, but how can we sustain it without explicit, honest financial support from the major players in town.
That’s where the incorporated, non-profit, charitable organization I represent comes in.
The Stratford Pride Guide will gather together in one place everything you want to know about Queer Stratford, for people who live here, visit here, or are interested in moving here. It will be accessible every day of every month of every year.
We are launching a campaign shortly. For a small donation annually, we can list a business or organization in the Stratford Pride Guide and provide a Pride Guide sticker for their business window. We plan to have this completed in time for next year’s season. Our vice-president and secretary/treasurer have lived and worked in the hospitality business here for a total of 50 years, and know the rhythm of the city well.
Second, the Stratford Pride Community Centre will be that bricks-and-mortar safe space, to socialize, meet for coffee with friends, make new friends, find out what’s going on, come for a movie night or a Sunday drag queen brunch, sit and read a book from the lending library. It’ll be the place queer Stratford residents have been asking forAnd it will be open as many days as community financial support will allow, every week of every month, of every year. We have made strong and active connections with the business and social service organizations, from the BIA to the public library and the public health unit, to the director of the board of education.
We have a top-level connection with the Festival. We have opened talks and have initial assurances to work together on bringing something new to Stratford. Winter Pride, each year starting in 2023, will be a celebration of Love Is Love over the Valentine’s Day Weekend, centred on a Saturday night black tie event – dinner and a night of cabaret at the Tom Patterson Theatre, as a fundraiser to benefit the Stratford Pride Community Centre and the Pride Guide. The Festival has already agreed to give us the theatre for free under the community use provision. With the Festival’s name and involvement, we foresee attracting well-to-do LGBT residents from Toronto and other places, as well as locals, for a posh, romantic weekend. We believe this will become a new highlight on the social calendar.
We need your help, too, Your Worship, councillors.
We know we’re not eligible for a community grant until a year from now. Most other government grants are out of our reach until then, too. But you are the mayor and council. You have what Teddy Roosevelt called the Bully Pulpit of high office. We seek your public support. Tell people about us. Encourage them to become our supporters, donors and benefactors. Please work with us and help us fulfil the promise of that rainbow outside city hall’s front doors.
Thank you for your time. I‘d be happy to take questions now.
Letter From The President, No. 2
A lot goes on behind the scenes that you don’t see. This monthly letter is my way of letting you know what’s up.
As our Secretary/Treasurer Ian Middleton posted on Facebook, with assistance of our legal counsel at The Ross Firm, we signed the paperwork to become not-for-profit corporation registered with the federal government at the start of last week.
Now we can begin the 6-to-8 months of work to become a registered charitable organization recognized by Revenue Canada. The significance? That status opens up a world of government and non-governmental grant and funding opportunities.
For instance, did you know it’s illegal in Canada for any organization to hold a 50/50 draw or raffle unless it is a registered charity or religious institution?
This recognition also allows us to issue tax receipts to donors of cash or in-kind goods and services. That is going to be so important when we come to opening a bricks and mortar location for the community centre. Think of all the monthly costs you have in running your own home. Yes, we’ll even need a coffee maker. And a chair for you to sit on. Not to mention rent, insurance and utility bills to pay.
As we work on that, we’ve launched a major two-part initiative to keep our promises to you and follow through on our mandate.
We said we’d post listings of LGBTQ+-related health links, and we have done it. They’re on our website, StratfordPride.com Health Links | Stratford Pride Community Centre. With more to come, I hope.
We said we would create a list of businesses and organizations in Stratford that are LGBTQ+-owned and/or friendly. The point being if you live in Toronto, for instance, and are coming for a theatre weekend, and you and your partner are wondering about a welcoming place to stay the night, or to have your dinner, or go out for a drink, there should be one place online where you can get ihe information you need. And a similar list for those thinking of moving to Stratford. That’s what we’re working on now.
We’ve opened a public contest to design a logo for SPCC. The winning design will become, among other things (t-shirts, hoodies, buttons, swag?) a sticker that each business can put in its front window to identify itself as a supporter of the SPCC. For $50 a year, the business will get the sticker and a listing on our website, again identifying itself as a supporter of, and donor to, SPCC. The contest winner will be announced November 8th. We’ll be knocking on business doors in December, in lots of time before the opening of the next tourist season.
A couple of things we have discovered in the past several weeks:
While there is the very busy LGBTQ2+ community centre in KW, with which I’d hoped we could do some joint work from time-to-time, its government funding comes with a string attached: its programs and services are open to residents of Waterloo Region only. This kind of condition, I am told, is a fairly routine in government funding.
OK, now take a look at a map. Find Stratford. Now draw your finger west to the American border. In all that area, there’s no LGBTQ+ community centre like we’re planning. There was something like one in Windsor but it closed for the pandemic and I haven’t heard back if they will be coming back. Even so, it’s a three hour drive away.
There are a few services in London, and of course its pride committee, but no community centre.
Look north. In North Perth, the new North Perth Pride hopes to hold a parade next year. And there’s the wonderfully active Kincardine Pride committee. But no year-round community centres. Just us. Yet there are LGBTQ+ people living throughout all that area.
We feel an awesome sense of responsibility and opportunity to make people’s lives better. We know they’ll be coming to visit if they can.
Last week, we were contacted by the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health in Goderich, a one-of-a-kind in Canada community-based rural health research institute. In had lunch with a representative of this 11-year-old organization Friday who wanted to discuss a regional approach to the mental, physical and social health of LGBT+ people, knowing the alleviation of LGBTQ+ social isolation is one of the things important to us.
I’ve asked for a written brief. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, I’m addressing Stratford City Council October 12th, looking for a statement of civic support (we’re not eligible for a community grant until the second half of next year). Soon after October 12,, I’ll be addressing a joint meeting of the City Centre BIA, Destination Stratford, investStratford, and the Chamber of Commerce, and hopefully the B&B association. Looking for support for our tourism initiative and overall plan.
If all that isn’t enough, we’ve begun thinking about what we’re doing for Winter Pride, our new celebration of events centred around Valentine’s Day Weekend. It’s likely all online for 2022, but we’re planning with the Stratford Festival a black tie fundraising night of dinner and cabaret at the Tom Patterson Theatre starting in 2023.
At our meeting Monday night, I’ll be asking the board for permission to post a new GoFundMe campaign this week. I’ll let you know. We’d be happy to take some more of your money.
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
Stratford Pride Community Centre
Sept. 1, 2021
A Message From The President:
I thought it was a good time for a quick look back on our first month and a look ahead at what we have coming up.
We launched with a bang August 4.
· Great support from Stratford business and community organizations.
· Radio, television and print news media coverage across South Western Ontario.
· One hundred-ten followers on our Facebook Group.
· The beginning of website listings of important health-related resources.
· Our thanks to you for overtopping our GoFundMe goal by 20%.
Peering into the future...
· Next week, we’re launching Community Column on our website. It’s a chance for you to tell us your stories.
· In October, we’ll open a public competition to design a visual identity (logo) for SPCC. Your chance to make an important, long-lasting contribution to us and to your community.
· In December, we will fire up our tourism campaign promoting Stratford businesses that support the SPCC and welcome members of the LGBTQ+ community through their doors.
· On Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb 12-14, 2022, we launch something brand new: Winter Pride – Love Is Love. Stay tuned for details of what will become an annual event.
· For June, Pride Month, we’ll have a slate of activities. More news to come.
I can’t forget to say we are in conversations with business leaders toward attaining that all-important goal of opening Stratford’s first LGBTQ+ community centre in 2022.
On behalf of our board members and special advisers,
All the best,
Bruce Duncan Skeaff
President and Chair
Stratford Pride Community Centre