Expect the Unexpected :: The Desert LGBT Center
Not everyone knows what it feels like to fall madly in love with a person, place or thing so completely that you just have to make it or them part of your daily life. But Brian Blueskye of Desert Hot Springs is someone who knows that feeling very well.
Before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, let’s be clear; Blueskye isn’t a stalker. He’s a volunteer at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert otherwise known simply as "The Center."
"The Center is special to me because it provides valuable services to our LGBT community," Blueskye told The Rage Monthly recently. "We offer unique classes for people to take, we have a food bank that distributes food to the elderly and people on disability. We have AIDS testing, low-cost counseling and so many other useful services that this LGBT Center provides to the community."
Leading the organization is a man who is equally passionate, "The mission of The Center is to enrich the lives of the LGBT community," explains Executive Director Gary Costa, adding that everyone is welcome. The Center advances its mission through senior programming, a clinical counseling and internship program, weekly food bank, extensive social and recreational offerings, a free community cyber center, a growing volunteer program and periodic special events in the community.
"I’d have to say that the low-cost counseling and the food bank are the two most vital services this organization provides," according to Bluesky. Low-cost counseling is crucial to the local LGBT community, he continues, "There are a lot of people who rely on it; sometimes when people are feeling troubled in their lives, they need a place to turn to for help and it’s not always affordable for them."
Asked how his volunteer work has impacted his personal life, Brian Blueskye is definite and philosophical in his reply: "It’s been wonderful for me. I’m a believer in generosity and the government-based social programs that save lives. I’ve always felt upset with how the government keeps cutting social programs and how people are really suffering. A lot of them don’t have access to health care, mental health or even things like food... It has really helped me see things differently and has sort of restored my faith in humanity."
For Gary Costa, stories like Blueskye’s, are tales of success that his job description mandates he replicate for clients of The Center again and again. It takes a lot of discipline, organization and action to meet that challenge. "No day is typical," says Costa. "I am a person who wakes up at 5 a.m. and immediately grabs my iPad to check E-mail and to begin planning my day by creating a to-do list and prioritizing tasks... I arrive at the office by 8:30 a.m. and begin by reviewing the list of gifts and contributions that have come in over the past 24 hours. I will then follow-up with an E-mail or phone call to those donors to thank them for their generosity."
As is the case with any executive, Costa plows through screens of e-mails every day. And as with any nonprofit leader, a very large chunk of his time is spent on issues of finance.
"My job requires me to manage and control the income for the organization and monitor the many grants we receive," he says. "There is always a grant proposal in the process of being submitted or a report to complete to one of our funding sources."
Costa also stays close to his employees by meeting one-on-one with each of them weekly.
As a 4,500-square foot drop-in community center that offers regularly scheduled social and support programs to the LGBT community, The Center is a hub of activity.
"We have everything from computer skills to language classes and yoga and bridge playing," Costa explains. "During the day we see a majority of our senior members-people who are retired or unemployed who come to the center for these activities. In the evening we tend to have many outside groups who use our meeting rooms for AA groups or meetings of their members." The Center also offers Bingo and Trivia Nights as well as health and wellness lectures by physicians from Eisenhower Medical.
For more information on the LGBT Community Center of the Desert located at 611 South Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 201 in Palm Springs and its many programs, or to volunteer call 760.416.7790 or go to thecenterps.org