The Bronx Community Pride Center, an LGBT non-profit organization serving thousands of residents in a borough with a huge Latino population, announced yesterday that due to major financial difficulties it will close its doors effective this Saturday, June 30th.
The news came almost two days after the New York Post published an article about the arrest of the non-profit's former director for possibly embezzling $338,000 from the LGBT center.
According to a press release issued late Wednesday night, “The board of directors of the Bronx Community Pride Center (BCPC), the borough’s largest LGBTQ service organization, has unanimously voted to cease operations of the center on June 30, 2012 and to begin making arrangements for current services to be provided by partner organizations within the Bronx.”
The former director of the BCPC, Lisa Winters, was arrested on June 15th and accused of stealing over $338K for personal expenses—including a vacation for her and her future wife to South Africa, according to an article published Wednesday afternoon in the Gothamist.
According to the BCPC press release, because of the “current economic difficulties, past debt and inability to raise sufficient unrestricted funding, the organization can no longer implement its current programs. The organization has debts which exceed revenues at this time and without significant cash infusions from major donors they (the board of directors) are unable to continue operations financially.”
Winters, 47, and her wife Scroggins, who have been together for 14 years, were married at the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan on the first day of legal gay marriage last year, the Gothamist article noted.
“As BCPC closes I ask that all Bronx LGBTQ organizations come together and fill the void that would be left behind,” said Antonio Centeno Jr., BCPC Board Chairperson. “The Board of Directors is committed to assisting in any way to make sure that our clients continue to be served, especially since this population is traditionally under served in the Bronx.”
The Bronx Community Pride Center was a not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1997 as the Bronx Lesbian and Gay Health Resource Consortium. Around 2005/2006 the name and mission was changed and the agency then became a community center.
An article in the Advocate today noted that the BCPC grew over 16 years from a group of health advocates focused on HIV/AIDS to a cultural and social resource for thousands of LGBT clients of all ages, particularly youths and seniors.
The closing of the BCPC "is really bad news for the LGBT community in the borough," posted prominent transgender rights activist Pauline Park on her Facebook page. "But the board of the Bronx center is ultimately responsible for the mismanagement there and for letting Lisa Winters get away with stealing $338,000 from the organization," wrote Park, who is presently the president of the board of directors and acting executive director of Queens Pride House.
"This story should be a cautionary tale for every LGBT community center or non-profit organization," Park continued. "The lesson for board members is that they have to exercise their fiduciary responsibility to ensure full oversight over the activities of the executive director and staff, all the more so if it's an organization serving LGBT people in the poorest county in the United States."
Tony O'Rourke-Quintana, who was the executive director of the BCPC in 2004, said via email, "I am saddened to hear about the closing of the Bronx Community Pride Center. As someone who, along with many others, envisioned a robust and active center for the uptown population, this setback comes as a disappointing shock!"