The Bronx Community Pride Center announced financial woes forced it to close just weeks after the center’s former executive director Lisa Winters was charged with embezzling $338,674 from the borough’s only lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community center, which served 1,000 people.
Bronx District Attorney officials charged Ms. Winters, 42, with falsifying business records and grand larceny on June 15, citing her use of Pride Center checks and credit cards to foot veterinary, dog walking and international vacation bills. The Pride Center received money from the city and the National Institutes of Health.
The board of directors unanimously voted on June 27 to close the center by the end of the month because it could no longer finance its shelter and counseling offered to homeless youth, nor could it support case management, job training, HIV prevention and leadership and cultural programs.
The board blamed past debt and stunted fund raising for the Mott Haven center’s deficit. A board member said it was impossible to say how much embezzlement contributed to the financial troubles, but noted that the accusations made it harder to gain donors’ trust. Now, executive staff said they’re trying to prevent a dearth of services that could come from the borough’s only community center for LGBT resident being shuttered.
Demetrius McCord, deputy executive director and director of development and Riverdale resident, said he and the board are working with agencies like the Adolescent AIDS project, the IRIS House, and Bronx AIDS Service to ensure that former Pride Center clients have access to services elsewhere. The Pride Center may transfer some of its city and state contracts to other agencies. Still, Mr. McCord worried that the transition might not be smooth for some.
“It’s going to be a substantial loss for the community only because it is the only exclusive service-oriented LGBT organization … some clients, in terms of transitioning to other agencies that identify as LGBT, may be forced to seek some of these services in Manhattan,” Mr. McCord said.