In May 2006,
The Advocate ran an article announcing that
Out Youth, an Austin-based community center for LGBT
youths, had closed its doors due to financial constraints.
Although the move was temporary, there was a degree of
uncertainty about the center's future. Now,
more than a year later, Out Youth is experiencing
newfound success with a little support from its friends and
After 16 years of
providing support and leadership opportunities to young
LGBT people, Out Youth found that its absence would not go
unnoticed. "It was sort of a wake-up
call," says Kevin Lemoine, the organization's
treasurer. "Some of our youth organized independently
to maintain the sense of community they got at OY.
People began to talk about how important Out Youth was
to the community and that they didn't want it to
die." Lemoine explained that government officials
with both the city of Austin and Travis County
expressed strong support for the center.
To maintain a
palpable presence, Out Youth opened on a limited basis
several weeks after announcing its closure. Providing its
services only one night a week, the center relied on a
volunteer staff and severely limited funds. To bolster
the organization, a group of community members worked
with local writer Steven Thomlinson and his partner, Eugene
Sepulveda, to organize a benefit performance of his play AmericanFiesta. The performance raised over $30,000,
making it Out Youth's most successful fund-raising
event to date.
Yet perhaps more
significant are the contributions of individual
supporters. One Houston couple donated $20,000, with
another $30,000 promised as soon as Out
Youth develops a solid business plan.
"Needless to say, the [board of directors] is working
on the business plan now and plan to have it completed
by the end of the summer," Lemoine says. The
most recent gift--a generous $105,000 to pay off the
mortgage of the Out Youth house-came
from by Bill Dickson, a retired certified public
accountant who has made Austin his home for the past 32
Dickson came into
contact with the organization through his late partner,
who was an advocate for LGBT youths. When he heard that Out
Youth was packing up, he offered his support.
"They do awfully good work," Dickson
says. "I can't think of any better way to put
my money." And this was not his first
contribution to LGBT organizations, as he had also paid off
the mortgage for AIDS Services of Austin. It's
worth it, Dickson says, because Out
Youth provides a unique service to the area. "A
lot of these kids are alienated," he explains.
"They need something like this."
not just Out Youth's supporters who are contributing
to the organization. "Out Youth models our
belief that youth are capable of 'doing it for
themselves.' We believe these actions speak louder
than any words," Lemoine explains. "This
engages youth in empowering work as part of a larger
community, which promotes personal growth for all
involved." The organization's young
members are essential to the planning and execution of
various Out Youth projects, including an alternative prom
that drew over 150 local young people this past year.
organization's recent success, there has been talk of
establishing satellite centers around central Texas.
"We have youth drive long distances to find us,
take long trips by public transportation, or just
e-mail from a distance," says Lemoine. "Some
don't speak English. We are looking for ways to expand
our reach, both geographically and across barriers of
language, culture, and all the other differences that divide
Of course, any
further expansion will be contingent on securing
additional funds from outside sources. But until then, the
center's leaders are content with its revived
presence in Austin. "When the doors closed, we
heard from the youth how important Out Youth was to
them, and many of them continued to gather
informally," says Lemoine. "They're the
heart and soul of our organization and the inspiration for
all the work we've done to rebuild Out Youth."