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April 22, 2011

CANAPI won’t produce Akron Pride festival

Board says tight money forces them to focus on support groups

Akron--The umbrella organization for the Community AIDS Network and the Akron Pride Center announced on April 19 that it would no longer produce an Akron Pride celebration or Out in Akron, but would maintain all of its support groups and would provide a community calendar to publicize those external events.

The change came after a strategic planning session for CANAPI, the Community AIDS Network-Akron Pride Initiative, resulting in a focus on programs that have the most impact in the community.

“The board recognized that with limited financial resources and a small staff, we needed to reexamine our role in the community and provide programming where and when it is needed the most,” board president Pete Nervo.

He pointed to a more socially accepted LGBT community in Akron as signifying a lessening need for the Pride Center to provide social events.

However, the only real change will be that the Pride Center will not produce an Akron Pride event this year. CANAPI will continue to provide “the things that are currently working and that the community is supporting,” said Dawn Jones, the director of operations.

“Our agency organized the Pride celebration at Lock 3, another organization organized the picnic at Copley, and I believe they’re having that again this year,” she said. “In fact, I know they are.”

Two Pride Center support and social groups will remain: the New Pride and Lesbian Unity Group, as well as the newly-formed Teen Pride, which will meet twice a month.

Jones said that the community dinner will continue in May, but that the board will likely end it after that.

“We were using them as an informal focus group activity, if you will,” she said, indicating that part of their purpose was to aid in the strategic planning process. “In the year we’ve been having those, it’s been the same four or five people consistently who have come. The board didn’t feel they were productive in the purpose for which we intended to have them.”

The combined organization will also continue to provide HIV testing and safer-sex services for the LGBT community.

The board decision will also leave Out in Akron, the city’s LGBT cultural festival, without the Akron Pride Center as its central organizer, but that is not a particularly new situation. Out in Akron began independently, and only part of the time was it organized by the center.

Jones noted that last year, as in some previous years, it was more an amalgamation of various events put on by organizations throughout the community and simply united under the banner of Out in Akron, for which CANAPI printed out postcards and provided some publicity.

The organization will continue to help publicize events in the LGBT community that others wish to organize.

“We are not going to try to discourage anybody from doing anything that they want,” she said. “We want to publish a calendar to publicize activities that support Pride or the mission of the agency. We have a nice calendar on our website.”

The main focus of the agency, however, has to be on support.

“We have zero intention of discontinuing any supportive programming or groups that are meeting here,” Jones said. “We just feel that this is not the time to begin expanding opportunities. It’s just not there right now for us.”

The center will also provide space for external organizations that would like to meet there. She said that four or five other groups currently meet at CANAPI.

The merger of the Community AIDS Network and the Akron Pride Center was announced at the end of 2009. Previously, the center had been on Adams Street prior to an attempted move to a new location on Aster Avenue.

The new building was purchased with funds bequeathed for the purpose in Raffaele A. Vitone’s will. However, the center could never raise enough money to complete renovations on the site, and it never opened. Some of the groups that met at the center began holding meetings at Community AIDS Network during that time.

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