In this week's issue of the Tucson Weekly, we talked to local community leaders and recapped what we reported earlier in the Range on the transitions happening at Wingspan. Yesterday, the board of directors of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation and Wingspan issued this statement by email, social media and their websites:
The boards of directors for SAAF and Wingspan have begun conversations exploring the possible merger of Wingspan’s programs and activities with SAAF’s. Both boards are excited about the possibilities of this new relationship and are looking forward to finding ways to continue and grow the vital services Wingspan has provided for the LGBTQ community for more than a quarter century.
Over the next several weeks, representatives from SAAF & Wingspan will continue to meet and make important decisions about Wingspan’s future and we are committed to keeping you apprised of developments as they occur.
Also making it's way through social media is an open letter from former Wingspan director Kent Burbank, whom we interview in this week's Wingspan story. You can read the letter after the jump.
"Wingspan and SAAF need us now as they explore a possible merger. I support them and ask that you join me. I have done a lot of reflecting over the past week on the news that Wingspan will be closing its doors. I want to thank those who reached out to me and also apologize for my silence. I needed time to reflect. Wingspan is an amazing center that arose out of the vision of so many people and embodied our community’s hopes and dreams of LGBT freedom, equality, safety and well-being.
Now is turning point in our history as Wingspan morphs into something new. I share the deep sadness that many people in the community feel. It is a great loss. There are so many people who have invested so much in Wingspan. I think of the founders, like Wayne Blakenship; of the long term supporters, like Colette Barajas and Ken Godat; and of the pioneers, like Lavina Tomer who founded the Wingspan Anti-Violence Project. I remember those who contributed so much, but who are no longer with us, like Craig Snow, Steve Hall, Jean Baker and Alexander John Goodrum.
But in my grief, I am also hopeful. There is a tremendous opportunity before us that will enable the continuation of many of the programs and services into which so many people poured their heart and souls. A tried and true ally of Wingspan, the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation, has stepped forward to work with the Wingspan board to continue the important mission, role and work of the organization. Although there is still a lot of work that the two boards have to do, I am profoundly hopeful and grateful. SAAF is throwing Wingspan a lifeline that will enable us to save the core programs and services that took decades to develop and nurture. It is vital that we don’t waste this opportunity.
For those of you who are worried about a merger with SAAF, I understand your fears, but I ask that you have faith and trust. SAAF was been a close friend of Wingspan’s for more than two decades, under the leadership first of Jerome Beillard, then Anne Maley and now Wendell Hicks. There is no organization that has been a closer collaborator. The LGBT community should be deeply grateful that we have a partner who is willing to step up in our time of need.
For those of you who want an accounting of what went wrong and why, I kindly and respectfully ask you to wait. There is a time and a place. While the community needs to understand and learn from what has happened, it is too fresh and there is too much yet to be done. For those of you who want to slow the process down and get more input, I respect your wish for a more inclusive process, but time is of the essence. When our house is engulfed in flames, the highest priority must be to rescue what is left from destruction — rather than ponder if the house was too large, made of the wrong materials, or if the safety measures were inadequate. We need to focus our energies on supporting the two boards of directors in order to ensure that as many core programs and services be maintained. If we get distracted, there will be nothing left to salvage.
I look fondly on the years when I was director of Wingspan. I was a young, flawed and imperfect leader. I always tried to remember that my job was to bring the community together to see what we could accomplish — and oh, what beautiful and marvelous things that community created. I also tried never to lose sight of the shoulders upon which we all stood: the countless people who founded, cultivated and grew Wingspan over the years prior to our arrival.
I worked with amazing board, staff and volunteers at Wingspan — people who poured their hearts and souls into the movement. Cathy Busha was my right hand and my bedrock for my entire 6 years at Wingspan; I truly couldn’t have done it without her. I got to work with so many amazing staff, people like Luanne Withee, Miriam Barnard, Kelli Olson, Michael Woodward, Meredith Trauner, Peter Powers Lake, Mark English, Carl Barnes, Alison Davidson, Victor Ventura, Courtney Jones, Rowan Frost, Oscar Jimenez, Ari Zwartjes, Heather Hill, Madeline Porta, Jess Knutson, Melita Quance, Ana Saldana, Tim Janes, Judy Kinney, Carlos Torres, Thomas Paredes, Caz Springer, Sarah Dahlen, Casey Chimneystar, Ashley Nowe, Geovanna de la Ree, Joe Nutini, Pat Woelke, Penelope Starr, Hector Martinez, Lori Girshick, Kirsten Larsen, and TC Tolbert.
We had great board members. Kathy Altman was my rock for many years; we made a great team and I am forever grateful for her support. I was blessed to work with many amazing board members, including people like Laura Alexander, Colette Barajas, Beth Carey, Leslie Carlson, Laura Olguin, Lavina Tomer, Laura Penny, Amanda Simpson, Ed Mercurio-Sakwa, Jim Sincox, Lisa Bibbens, Josefina Ahumada, Joyce Bolinger, Glenn Fournie, Ann Jones, Carol Lohman, Jim Allender, Sarah Showard, Linda Taylor, Gloria Proo, Shannon Cain, Thomas Melendez, Marco Prado, Jenifer McGuire, David Braun, Christian Biede, Scott Rhude, John Vasquez Bedoy, Michael Elsner, Angela Soto, Alan Taylor, Carol Galper, Don Boswell, Tejal Parikh, Roger Funk and Angie Johnson Smith.
I was also supported and nurtured by an amazing group of volunteers. There are simply too many to name and once I start, I will leave too many out — but you know who you are. I think of so many of you so often and with such great fondness.
To those who trusted me while I was at Wingspan, I ask that you trust me again — and join with me in supporting the boards of Wingspan and SAAF as they pursue this merger. Please do everything in your power to help bring our community together to ensure that the spirit and work of Wingspan lives on in a new form under the care and protection of SAAF. We owe it to all of those who built this thing of great beauty."