Well gang, the summer doldrums are over, at least for me. I've got a kid in school that started on August 18th so my fall started early. Oh yeah, you don't know about him yet. Well, I'll get to that, but first let me tell you about my Spring and Summer, and why I've been away.
After 4 1/2 years of hard work, David and I have finally opened the first gay and lesbian community center in Las Cruces. No big deal you say? It is. It's the first gay and lesbian community center in Las Cruces and the only one in the state of New Mexico. I wish that you could feel the elation that I feel in being able to do something to bring the fractured and isolated GLBTQ community a hope of becoming a family...a community here in New Mexico. We incorporated in New Mexico 2 years ago and received our non-profit status from the IRS the same year. We had thought about what we wanted to do, to become, and realized that this wasn't about us...this was about the community. So, we applied for and received a grant from the Gamma Mu Foundation to do the first ever GLBTQ focused state wide needs assessment of what the community needed. We were not about to try to impose our thoughts on what was needed, but wanted to know what was REALLY needed hand carried our final report was send to every state representative and senator. Our Center programs are based on those findings of youth and seniors. We had a soft opening in March and had our official grand opening in June to coincide with the Pride picnic and march parade through downtown. We had events going from Friday through Sunday. On Friday there was a coalition building workshop where we had representatives from Equality New Mexico, PFLAG New Mexico, Interpride (the national Pride organization) and Centerlink (the national organization of gay and lesbian centers). That evening we had a family movie night. Saturday morning was our official ribbon cutting ceremony. OMG! We had sent out invitations to everybody, and guess what? They showed up. We had City officials there along with county commissioners, state representatives, representatives for our state senators, from both of our US senators, one from our US representative and someone reading a letter from our Lt. governor. This a first in New Mexico. That Saturday we had a booth at the Pride picnic in the park and offered a free shuttle service (which cost us dearly) between the park and the center, which was only a few blocks away, David manned the center while I manned the booth. Albersons market donated a marvelous cake for the open house at the center with a wonderful picture of the center on top in the frosting., Of course, we had to take home the leftovers. Saturday evening we had an invitation only reception at our home for the high rollers to get them to donate, but it wasn't attended so well. Santorini's Restaurant donated a wonderful array of Mediterranean food and Saint Clair Winery donated the wines. Sunday morning we hosted an interfaith symposium at the center where we had 7 representatives from the areas various churches come and discuss homosexuality and the church. 35 people showed up for that event, and we're continuing that dialog with the churches.
What I'm getting from the response to our opening is that they want us here. We're the first, and I hear things like, "It's about time," We're behind you." and "What can we do to help." I'd say that I'm in 7th heaven, but I think I just passed on to number 8.
So far we have 14 social and support groups meeting there. AA has a group meeting there, ALANON meets there along with a parenting of gay kids group, a men's group, a trans group and many others.
I could go on and on about the groups that are meeting there, but what's more important to me is the social services that we're providing. The state health department, through a two full day training session, has certified us as an HIV testing site. We received a grant from a private foundation to initiate an HIV prevention program and counseling services are available.
We've started a youth center to get the kids involved, but more than that, it's about them making the right choices in life, a social gathering spot, suicide prevention and life skills training.
You all don't know how excited this 65 year old is. My dreams are coming true.
So that's what's been taking my time away from you all.
Okay, now on to Nathaniel.
The two foster kids that were placed with us have moved on. One had to be admitted to a hospital because of homicidal tendencies and the other older boy moved on to independent (although transitional) housing apartments. The older boy, 18 y/o, had a friend in Albuquerque that had moved to Las Cruces. They met up again on MySpace and found out that they lived only a few blocks apart, so his friend (Nathaniel) started to spend some time at our house, One morning I saw that Nathaniel was still here. I questioned him and found out that he was afraid to go home. He was afraid of his father. David and I sat him down and explained his options (as he was now considered a runaway). We told him that his best option was to talk to his dad and work it out, which he eventually did. I asked him how it went and he said fine, but i didn't believe him.
About a month ago, he called me at 11:00 pm on a Friday night and was in tears. He asked me if he could come over and hearing how distraught he was, I said of course, without even asking what was wrong. I walked outside and eventually saw him walk up the driveway carrying two small bags. He approached me and threw his arms around me and sobbed. I held him and it took several minutes for him to get out his story. He had an argument with his dad (and Nathaniel being gay was an issue) and his dad told him to get out, to go live with his mother. He gave him no money (she lives 3 hours away) or transportation. So, Nathaniel is now living with us. I reported his dad to CYFD (Child Youth & Family Department), our child protective services state department, as I'm a licensed foster parent and a mandatory reporter.l As far as I'm concerned, this is a clear case of abandonment. We have a meeting set up for Tuesday with dear old dad, me, and adoption agency and CYFD this coming Tuesday. My God, if Nathaniel gets hurt, right now I have no authority to get him medical attention. CYFD wants dad to sign at least a power of attorney for me. As far as I'm concerned, this kid has suffered enough and needs a family, which he's never had, and the dad can go to jail. Nathaniel agree with me
Anyway, that's how I've got a kid living with us. I know there'll be a lot of questions from you all, so go ahead and ask. Are we at risk? Did we put ourselves in harms way? Yeah, we did. But this kid's future is more important.