Tag Archives: Karen Gotzler

Vigil planned for 7 p.m. tonight at Milwaukee City Hall

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center will join with Mayor Tom Barrett and other organizations for a community vigil remembering those impacted by the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, which occurred at an Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday morning.

The tribute, open to the public, is to be held at 7 p.m. this evening at City Hall, on the corner of Water and Wells Streets. There will be a brief program at 7:30 p.m., and the vigil will be moved into the City Hall rotunda in case of bad weather.

“Today will be remembered as a tragic day not only for the LGBT community, but for the entire nation,” said Karen Gotzler, Milwaukee LGBT Community Center executive director, in a prepared statement.

On Sunday, the final day of Milwaukee PrideFest, the Center offered free crisis counseling on the Summerfest grounds.  Crisis counseling services will continue this week at the center, which is located in the Blatz complex, 1110 N. 2nd Market Street, second floor, from noon to 7 p.m. throughout the week. The Center is located downtown in the Blatz complex at, and counselors can be reached by calling 414-271-2656.

In the center’s press release, Gotzler thanked the Milwaukee Police Department, FBI law enforcement, the Muslim community and many other citizens of Milwaukee for expressing their support throughout the day.

You can donate to support the victims and their families through a fund set up by the GLBT Community Center of Central Florida.

Momentum builds at Milwaukee LGBT Community Center

Dramatic changes at the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center continue to brighten its financial outlook, say the group’s new leaders.

In the past several months, volunteers, many of whom were involved in establishing the center in the late 1990s, have revamped the board, created new operational policies and renegotiated the center’s lease arrangement to more favorable terms.

Helping to fortify the center’s finances is a two-year, $50,000 grant from the Helen Bader Foundation to expand the administrative staff. Grants awarded to non-profits typically cover only specific programmatic costs and cannot be used to pay for agency overhead. The Bader Foundation grant is particularly valuable, because it can be used for basic operational expenses.

“The Helen Bader Foundation’s support comes at a critical time for the center, and it will strengthen the center’s capacity to continue providing vital programming to the community,” said board co-president Paul Williams.

Officials outlined plans for the group’s future in May at a town hall meeting attended by more than 100 enthusiastic supporters. Nearly 20 additional people viewed the meeting live on the Web.

The town hall meeting was the first since January, when more than 150 people jammed the center’s community room to learn about the group’s dire financial situation in the wake of former executive director Maggi Cage’s departure. At that time, the public was on hand largely to air grievances, but the May 17 town hall meeting was dominated by reports of positive developments and expressions of support.

“The most impressive thing is that despite everything, the center has forged on,” interim executive director Karen Gotzler told attendees.

People attending the meeting contributed $3,250, including more than $300 from online viewers. That amount was matched by a $3,000 challenge grant from the Johnson & Pabst Humanity Fund of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Among the positive news announced at the meeting was a new lease arrangement with landlord Siegel-Gallagher, the real estate company that manages the downtown building where the center is housed. The organization formerly had a 10-year lease on four floors in the building at a monthly cost of $20,000. Under the new terms, the center has a one-year lease on two floors of the building at a monthly cost of $9,500.

The entrance to the center has moved from 252 E. Highland Ave. to 1110 N. Market St.

Williams praised Siegel- Gallagher for its support and flexibility. He said the new lease arrangement gives the group breathing time to critically assess its space requirements and determine an optimal long-term location.

Officials also announced that a new finance committee overseen by treasurer Peter Larson is renegotiating the center’s debt. Although revenue from program grants has fallen, overhead has been reduced by an even greater percentage. Overhead was cut by $17,000 between March and May alone, Larson said.

With the identification of new income sources, center officials said they projected the possibility of returning to the black in October.

Since the May meeting, the center has also received a $5,000 grant from the Non-profit Management Fund to hire a consultant to write a fundraising plan. More than $16,000 was raised for the center at the community’s annual “challenge party,” held this year on June 15 at the home of Mike Laska.

Since the January meeting, board membership has increased from four to 14, with new members offering a range of specialized skills in such areas as fundraising, communications, technology, strategic planning, human resources and youth programming. Anne David has joined the staff as program manager for the center’s Anti-Violence and Counseling Services.

“One of the great things about this process is how many people have stepped up to say, ‘WhatcanIdoto help,’”  said board co-president Jennifer Morales.

Officers in the organization also announced that they’re in the process of revamping the group’s bylaws. Perhaps the most anticipated change is the method of selecting board members. Cage prompted a membership defection when she ushered through a new plan under which only existing board members could elect new members. Critics said this gave Cage virtual control over the center.

The new board has proposed reinstating the previous policy for allowing at least half of the directors to be elected directly by members. Center officials say this gives more power to members to revise bylaws and            call special meetings. The new policy and other bylaw changes are expected to be enacted at the next board meeting in July.

“We were so pleased with the outpouring of support and the wonderful energy that community members brought to the (May) meeting,” Williams said. “We want to build upon the many positive developments of the past several months and fully renew the center based on the community’s interests and needs.”

The center’s next annual meeting will be sometime in the fall. Meanwhile, the center is seeking input from community members as part of a process of evaluating counseling needs. This survey is available online through July 18.


On the Web: www.mkelgbt.org

A 2011 annual report will be posted at www.mkelgbt.org/_data/ documents/2011_LGBT_ Annual_ReportFinal[1].pdf.

New life for Milwaukee LGBT Center

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center has an enthusiastic new leadership team and is ready to tackle the future, say recently elected board co-chairs Jennifer Morales and Paul Williams.

While the team might be new, it includes a number of familiar faces from the center’s past, including popular past executive director Neil Albrecht, who’s joined the center’s finance committee.

“We’re all coming home,” Williams said. “That’s the theme. We came home because there were some problems and we wanted to help out. … There’s someone on the board or advisory council representing every year since we started organizing in 1996.”

The center first opened its doors in 1999.

The renewed vigor surrounding the community center stems from an open meeting held by the group’s former board with the city’s LGBT community at large on Jan. 26. At that time, the center was reeling from a deep budget deficit and the abrupt departure of former executive director Maggi Cage, who had alienated donors, members and a large swath of the community served by the center.

About 200 people showed up, and many of them volunteered to help put the center back on track. An advisory council was formed, and the group’s board has since expanded from four members to 13 people who represent a diversity of valuable experience, Williams says.

Interim executive director Sheldon Walker, who spearheaded the effort to bring the community together during the crisis, has returned to his career as a chef. Karen Gotzler, who was part of the center’s early history, is now handling the director’s role on a consulting basis.

One of the first orders of business was to restructure the center’s debt and negotiate a more affordable lease arrangement with Siegel-Gallagher, the company that manages the building currently occupied by the center – the Blatz Boiler House, 252 E. Highland Ave., in downtown Milwaukee.

Gotzler said she’s working on an arrangement to reduce the square footage occupied by the center from 21,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet, by subleasing out unnecessary space. “(Siegel-Gallagher) has been an incredibly supportive partner,” she said.

Standard financial systems and work reports have been put into place, and the board is reviewing the group’s bylaws, including the controversial policy promoted by Cage that turned the board from one elected by members to a self-selecting body.

In addition to addressing financial matters, the new leadership is seeking input from the public about the kinds of programs and activities community members want at the center.

“A couple of board members said recently that we need to be more fun,” Morales said.

“We have all this great energy now about making the center what we want it to be,” Williams said.

Apparently, every possibility is on the table for consideration, from ballroom dancing to cooking classes to movie nights. “The role of the new leadership is to rebroaden the center,” Gotzler said.

An effort also is underway to re-engage former donors who withdrew their support during Cage’s tenure. Morales said board members planned to meet with each donor individually to apologize for the past and “make sure they know that one of the key lessons we’ve learned is that we always have to be in regular communication with our supporters.”

Meanwhile, the service contracts and grants that the center obtained under Cage’s leadership are being fulfilled and programs are ongoing, including Project Q, which supports LGBT and questioning youth and their allies.

Jewish Family Services, which supported the creation of the center’s Milwaukee LGBT Mental Health Clinic under Cage, is referring patients to other providers until the center hires a coordinator for the program. Cage briefly held the role immediately after stepping down as executive director an before leaving the center’s employment altogether.

The enthusiasm and commitment at the center these days has become a self-perpetuating phenomenon that continues to draw in new people while reenergizing those already committed, say the group’s new leaders. With so much to be done, “it would be overwhelming is there weren’t so many passionate, intelligent people involved,” Morales said.

“My resolve gets stronger every day,” Williams said. “It goes back to the old days when there were all kinds of people running into each other (at the center). It was a place you knew you wanted to be, because it was the center of the community.”

“This is an opportunity for us to come together with our best selves, with our highest selves (and) … to come out the other end with a better organization,” Gotzler said. “Every single person I’ve asked to help has said ‘yes.’ To me, that says the community wants this place to be successful and wants us to have a location where we can come together.”

New officers

Jennifer Morales, co-chair

Paul Williams, co-chair

W. Peter Larson, treasurer

Halanna Lathon, secretary