Last year wasn't a lucky one for Inside Out Youth Services.
The LGBT youth nonprofit lost executive director Shawna Kemppainen to a job at Urban Peak early in the year, just as it was preparing to relocate out of its long-time home in the Independent's basement. By late summer, the nonprofit had a new home and a new executive director, Chris Robertson.
But on the eve of its grand opening, the new location burned down for reasons that are still unknown. (Arson is not suspected at this point.) Robertson announced he had accepted another job at the Southern Colorado AIDS Project soon after.
That left only the board, volunteers, and volunteer program manager Eric Pizana to deal with a bad situation. Pizana says the nonprofit lost everything in the fire including furniture, photos, awards, a pool table, and a beloved stuffed lizard named "Mike."
The nonprofit moved into a temporary home at the Tim Gill Center for Public Media, where members could meet in the evening hours. Pizana says he was deeply appreciative of the free space, but this wasn't a home for the nonprofit; they couldn't store furniture or other items there.
Thus Pizana is incredibly excited about the nonprofit's new downtown location, at 412 S. Tejon St. Painted in bright primary colors, and decorated with an array of donated furniture, the new spot offers a fresh start. That's especially true since the board plans to announce a new executive director within the coming days. Pizana, who has worked at the nonprofit for three years and was a participant at Inside Out when he was a youth, is among the candidates.
"I have such a tremendous passion for this organization," he says. "Being a youth back in the day, I know what it's like to have a responsible adult in your life."
Right now, Pizana says his goal is to let youth know that Inside Out has a new home. He says he's excited that the location is once again downtown, because it provides better access to homeless youth, who in the past made up 1 in 5 of the program's 500 participants.
"Isn't it ironic that an LGBT organization almost became homeless?" he says. " That is such a problem with LGBT youth."
Speaking of which, Pizana says Inside Out is still in need of financial help, especially with a downtown rental payment. He urges supporters to give online and/or attend two upcoming fundraisers at Ivywild School. "Love Curses All" will be held Feb. 13 as a celebration of broken hearts. "Love Cures All" is planned for Feb. 14 as a celebration of love. Each event will cost $15.