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HomeActivismLGBT Life Center CEO and board of directors address allegations, propose solutions

LGBT Life Center CEO and board of directors address allegations, propose solutions

Editor’s Note: Stacie Walls, CEO of the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, and the Board of Directors last night sent an email to constituents addressing concerns raised by The Virginian Pilot in a September 27 article.  The content of that email is published here in its entirety.

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A Message From Our CEO, Stacie Walls, & Our Board of Directors

Dear LGBT Life Center Friends and Allies,

Leading a nonprofit service agency is not without its challenges, and even after 22 years, I am constantly learning and growing in this role. Being labeled as difficult or accused of fostering a toxic work environment is a humbling experience, and one that I do not take lightly, especially when the goal is to always provide the best services to our community and staff. Over the years at this agency, I have worked with some amazing people. I also acknowledge that some people’s experiences should have been better. I want to assure our team that my intentions are and always have been rooted in creating an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive and feel comfortable so that we can serve our clients with the highest level of care and compassion. One of my favorite quotes is “when we know better, we do better.”

Over the last several weeks, we have taken time to talk to our leadership team, communicate with our staff, and hear from our community stakeholders like donors, funders, and volunteers. We are now in the process of implementing several internal employee programs and trainings that all staff, including myself, participate in, and I am committed to making continuous improvements for our agency and the community. We all share the responsibility of making this organization a better place to work, and I’m doing my best to lead by example. Our mission to serve this community remains steadfast and strong.

Together, with the LGBT Life Center’s Board of Directors and our management team, we have pinpointed areas for improvement to better align the workforce and workflow with our mission and values, and to support the ongoing expansion of our crucial services to the community and this region:

We created a new position and are now hiring for the role of Human Resources Manager at LGBT Life Center. This role will implement and shape policies and procedures, employee development, and HR compliance to ensure a thriving and harmonious workplace that nurtures the professional growth of its workforce. Learn more and apply for this job HERE.

We have created an onboarding committee to restructure the process for new employees’ orientation to ensure in-depth training for all new staff members.

In addition to the trainings we have had this year, we are re-establishing an internal Racial Equity Committee and Employee Resource Groups to advance our DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) efforts, and to promote a supportive work environment where all employees feel heard and valued.

We are conducting our 2nd internal Climate Survey for the year, with results delivered directly to the Board. The first Climate Survey was in February 2023. A portal has been created for staff members to submit anonymous questions, feedback, and comments.

We will make publicly available a detailed yearly report that outlines our performance and services.

To better guide and advise the leadership of The Center, we will be announcing new Board Members and conducting another board training with CenterLink. Our Board is committed to growing a more diverse and inclusive governing committee that is more representative of the staff and the clients we serve.

Some recently published inaccuracies concerning The Center have prompted us to offer insights into our programs and history:

LGBT Life Center has a track record of managing funds with the highest level of integrity, a fact substantiated by multiple third-party audits. Our organization is subjected to annual audits and stringent monitoring for each grant received, and we maintain a strong record of financial responsibility, which has resulted in us often being re-awarded grants upon the conclusion of grant cycles.

LGBT Life Center concluded a medical partnership due to disputes over contract terms, specifically around a shared savings agreement. As there is an ongoing lawsuit, we are advised not to comment further. However, the existence of a lawsuit does not imply wrongdoing on our part. This lawsuit is in no way connected to mismanagement of funds.

Our housing services are secure. The LGBT Life Center receives multiple grants to operate supportive housing programs serving 270 client households monthly. Those grants were expanded significantly during COVID to provide emergency assistance to more people at risk of becoming unhoused. We are proud of the fact that we provided extensive services during that time, but it also challenged our infrastructure, which was similar to the experiences of other organizations. We were and always have been committed to ensuring that clients remain stably housed while in our programs. There are occasions when people may be evicted for reasons outside of the agency’s control, but it is very rare. Our team works hard to prevent evictions, and we strive to provide support to clients throughout the whole process. Grant guidelines are very strict and rigid about the type of support and assistance we can provide, which sometimes limits the available assistance, but our housing team encompasses some of the most compassionate and resilient staff who do their best to serve the needs of clients. Clients are empowered to manage their leases and utilities, which can sometimes create difficult learning experiences for everyone involved, but we remain adamant that The Center has no record of directly causing an eviction or utility shut-off due to non-payment. We acknowledge that there was a difficult transition for our accounting and bill paying services that may have resulted in late payments at times, but we strived to correct that for our clients housing security.

The Center left Court One (Ghent location) because of ongoing maintenance and parking challenges. The neighborhood has grown, which is great for the City of Norfolk. The space was no longer feasible for our programs, clients, and staff due to our growth.

As a multi-year winner of Outwire’s Gay HRVA’s “Best of” poll in the categories of ‘best LGBT affirmative employer,’ ‘best LGBT nonprofit,’ and ‘best LGBT medical provider,’ we have the utmost confidence in our organization, our leadership and staff, and the work that we do.

As always, we welcome your feedback and questions, which can be submitted through our community feedback portal.

Humbly and in Community,

Stacie Walls, CEO, Lisa Stafford, Board President,
& The LGBT Life Center Board of Directors

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