Community and Connection DuringAnother Covid-19 Caused Shutdown
Residents of the Bay Area have once again been asked to stay at home through at least the end of December, except when conducting essential business, and also to scrupulously observe prevention practices including mask wearing, social distancing and frequent handwashing. We know that stay at home orders are truly difficult for all of our constituents, and very likely to deepen isolation and depression to troublesome levels. This is especially true during the Holidays, when all of us hope for and are accustomed to gathering with friends and loved ones for warmth and celebration. The Spahr Center wants to remind our clients and supporters that we are here for you during this time. We continue to hold discussion groups and social activities by Zoom. Our therapists are available to provide support. We will help you to build or maintain community and connection as best we can – during and after Covid. Reach us at [email protected] or 415.886.8551. Art by @hellomynameiswednesday.
Many Hands Make Light Work –Volunteer with The Spahr Center!
As an essential business during the Covid-19 emergency, The Spahr Center operates programs that have to continue serving people no matter what! This includes our food pantry and syringe access program, as well as programs that keep our clients connected to community to prevent isolation and depression. (See our story on the new Friendly Visitor program.) All of these programs need additional hands to ensure that HIV-positive and LGBTQ+ people in Marin have the support they need. We are sensitive to the fact that much of the work we do must be done in our Corte Madera office. We take mask wearing, distancing and cleanliness very seriously, and will create the safest possible experience for our volunteers! If you are interested in working with us, please contact [email protected], or call 415.886.8551 to discuss.
Friendly Visits for LGBT Seniors –Our Newest Program
The Spahr Center serves a wonderful and large group of seniors through discussion groups, counseling services, and social activities (many of which are provided by our friends at the Social Committee). These services help to build community and belonging for LGBT seniors, and are among our most rewarding offerings. We know that there are many additional LGBT seniors in Marin County who are living alone or in residential care facilities who feel very isolated from their peers, and long for connection – especially during Covid! With support from the Marin County Non-Profit Community Partner Program, Horizons Foundation and Westamerica Bank, The Spahr Center is launching a Friendly Visitor Program. We are recruiting volunteers to be trained to be in regular contact with an LGBT senior by phone or over Zoom to share stories, discuss mutual interests and form a friendship. We also plan to connect seniors new to our LGBT programs to all of the services provided by The Spahr Center. We welcome Spahrklers (Spahrkle readers) to let us know if you are aware of an LGBT senior who might enjoy participating in the Friendly Visitor Program. Additionally, we seek volunteers who have 2 to 5 hours a week to serve as Friendly Visitors! This involves some training, making weekly visits, and reporting back to our staff every week about how things are going. Please contact Bill Blackburn at [email protected] if you would like to help!
Make Your End of Tax Year Donation Today – Support The Spahr Center to Achieve its New Strategic Plan!
On November 23, The Spahr Center released its Strategic Plan to guide our programs and advocacy from 2021 to 2025. It is a bold and visionary road map to respond to the needs and aspirations articulated by 150 community members and service providers. Our 6 Priorities and 15 action items will further ensure that members of the HIV and LGBTQ+ communities feel better connected to one another and supported; that a comprehensive, quality system of medical and social services exists to meet their needs; and that Marin’s residents and key institutions are fully embracing. We encourage you to review our Plan at www.thespahrcenter.org. We ask that our supporters make a generous contribution to help us carry out our vision of an LGBTQ+ and HIV community that is connected, empowered, and thriving within a supportive Marin County. Please consider making a monthly pledge to sustain the life-saving and life-affirming work of this one-of-a-kind agency. Visit https://www.mightycause.com/organization/spahrcenter TODAY!
The Spahr Center protects dozens of lives every year through its program to provide sterile syringes to injection drug users and collect used syringes, as well as its program to distribute Naloxone widely to prevent opioid related overdoses. The program is funded by the State of California, County of Marin and private foundations to prevent HIV infection, hepatitis C infection and overdoses, as well as to link individuals to needed medical care and other social services. We encourage Spahrkle readers to learn more about the principles of and approaches to harm reduction at www.harmreduction.org and also to follow our harm reduction program on Twitter: @4harmreduction. And please see our related interview with Lyra Smith in this issue of Spahrkle!
Spotlight on the Great People of the Spahr Center – Focus on Lyra Smith
With this issue of Spahrkle, we launch a monthly profile of some of the wonderful clients, staff members, volunteers, donors, and supporters who deliver the important programs of The Spahr Center and contribute to its culture of compassion and outstanding service to the community. We start with Lyra Smith! In December, Lyra took on the important role of Development Assistant here at Spahr to support our fundraising activities. Lyra continues her service as a super-dedicated and effective volunteer with the Syringe Access Program – helping to staff sites at which we provide sterile syringes, hand out Naloxone to prevent overdoses, and link injection drug users to medical and social support programs. We are so grateful to Lyra for her enthusiastic and conscientious work for the community. Rhiannon Saltzman, The Spahr Center’s Harm Reduction Manager, had a sit down with Lyra to ask her a few questions about her life and activities. See her responses by clicking here:
School Board Candidate Forums Show Huge Potential for LGBTQ+ School Advocacy
This year, The Spahr Center’s held student-led candidate forums for the Tamalpais Union, San Rafael, Sausalito/Marin City, and Novato school board races. The forums were live streamed over Facebook and facilitated by members of our Social Justice Fellowship and Middle School Leadership Institute programs. The forums proved to be very generative spaces that allowed candidates to hear the needs of LGBTQ+ students in their schools and express their commitments to providing more support. The youth participants voiced immense amounts of excitement for how all of the candidates participating enthusiastically engaged with LGBTQ+ issues and brainstormed possibilities for the future. Some of the ideas generated by school board members included a district-level LGBTQ+ task force, increased counseling resources, needs assessments, curriculum revisions, cultural competency, and more! It was powerful for these ideas to come from school board candidates, and The Spahr Center is excited to collaborate with those who have now been elected. Stay tuned for more updates on the youth program’s advocacy work moving forward!
Chiqui Diaz, member of The Spahr Center’s Social Justice Fellowship Program, wins California activism award!
Chiqui was one of 6 young people from across the state named “Voices for Change” by the California Endowment. The Youth Awards honor young leaders who engage civically, volunteer locally, advocate for important causes, or encourage engagement among their peers. The award seeks to recognize youth who take brave action when faced with deep-rooted systemic barriers and injustice, have shown up in their community as agents of change, have made a positive impact on their community at large, and will continue to evolve as leaders in the years ahead. The California Endowment describes the youth as “agents of change who have dedicated themselves to the hard work of addressing social injustices or inequalities in their local community or state. And we completely agree! Chiqui is an incredible community activist. We wanted to share more about her work in Marin County. Read more about her here: