At first glance, it's simply another downtown office space: Corridors and cubicles and file cabinets delineating where work takes place. But then you notice some rainbow flags, some activist posters, and some defiantly-themed art on the walls, and you know you're not in the average D.C. office.
And, for the record, The Center wants gays and lesbians to think of it as home.
The office is actually a new home to The Center, the organization that serves as a community center for the GLBT community. It's also home to two stalwarts of the community, the D.C.-area chapter of PFLAG and Brother, Help Thyself (BHT). Tonight the doors are open to the community for the grand opening event, "Welcome Home." And if you have some ideas about what you want from a GLBT community Center, Michael Sessa wants to hear them.
(Photo by Todd Franson)
"We need to look at being unique and doing those things that no one else is doing," says Sessa, who was recently elected president of the Center's board of directors. The new offices are the group's base to work with the community and other organizations. "We hope to be a support structure," he says. "We don't want to be repetitive or competitive [with other GLBT groups]."
Sessa says the new office space is part of the Center's work to prove the concept of a GLBT community center can work in D.C. The shared space, which includes a conference room and other resources for GLBT community organizations to use, is "a direct result of the value that we bring to the community."
The Center was at the center of the story last year when the group's initial plans to move forward with building a community center at Stead Park at 17th and P streets met with some strong opposition.
"It's still an option, but it's on hiatus," Sessa says. The Center is not focusing as much on the long-term of Stead Park as it is on the shorter-term goals of developing appropriate programs for the community.
Rhonda Buckner, executive director of the D.C. PFLAG chapter, says the office space is a great relief for the organization.
"You can't imagine what it feels like to have a five-year lease. No one can kick us out," she laughs.
Buckner points to the synergy and "lots of emotional support" that come when sharing and office with two other GLBT groups and working side-by-side with people who understand both the import and nuances of the issues the community faces.
Board members from all three groups will be at tonight's open house to answer questions about their work. Sessa says that they are looking for ways to ensure that they are successful in serving the community.
"We planted the seed and we need to support it and nurture it and make sure it grows. The idea has to be successful."
"Welcome Home," an open house for The Center, Metro D.C. PFLAG, and Brother, Help Thyself, will be held from 4 to 8 p.m. this evening, February 24, at their offices at 1111 14th Street NW, Suite 350. For more information about the open house and the offices visit www.thedccenter.org.