Equality Illinois Expands Statewide Strategy
LGBT group adds central Illinois office and strategic local partnerships

SPRINGFIELD (August 29, 2015) – To better serve the needs and priorities of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Illinoisans, Equality Illinois is excited to announce an expanded statewide strategy that includes opening of a central Illinois office and a network of strategic local partnerships.

Equality Illinois has always focused on the needs of the entire state. Our expanded statewide strategy will allow us to more comprehensively serve LGBT Illinoisans in those parts of the state where stronger connections to policy, education, advocacy and support services are needed to ensure full equality. The expansion also provides more opportunities for Equality Illinois to engage with our allies throughout the state.

“In an environment where marriage equality is secured for same-sex couples, our work to obtain full lived equality is not done,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, the largest and oldest advocacy organization for LGBT Illinoisans. “The milestone steps we are announcing today demonstrate our commitment to ensuring all LGBT Illinoisans can enjoy lived equality at home, at work, at school, and everywhere else in their communities.”

As part of its expanded statewide strategy, Equality Illinois is today hosting the LGBT Equality Institute in Springfield. Panels are covering topics that include non-discrimination, mental health care, transgender equality, safe schools, faith, ally development, youth, state initiatives and policy, and more, with a special emphasis on the services, programs and issues central to Illinoisans outside of Chicago.

Founded in 1991, Equality Illinois is the state’s oldest and largest organization advocating for LGBT Illinoisans. The organization’s mission to build a better Illinois by advancing equal protection and social justice includes public education and issue advancement throughout the state.

The expanded statewide strategy is being made possible in part by the support of the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation.  The balance of the project’s cost will be funded by a portion of Equality Illinois’ cash reserves which have been built through prudent financial management and maintained specifically for such reinvestment.

Equality Illinois’ first strategic community partner is the Phoenix Center, Springfield’s LGBT community center. Founded in 2001, the Phoenix Center provides a range of services, including transitional housing for homeless men and women who are HIV positive; free testing for sexually transmitted infections; outreach services for the most vulnerable members of the community; educational programming; and a support group for LGBT youth. As a community partner, the Phoenix Center will advise Equality Illinois on priorities and needs in the area and coordinate on outreach, educational, and other programming.

“We are excited to partner with the Phoenix Center to deliver our broad range of resources and programming to serve the regional LGBT community,” Cherkasov said. “Working together, we will improve the lives of people in central Illinois.”

“It makes sense for Equality Illinois and the Phoenix Center to partner as we are doing great work here in central Illinois,” said Jonna Cooley, Executive Director of the Phoenix Center. “Our partnership with Equality Illinois will allow us to add resources and trainings to our programming and will help Equality Illinois establish a greater presence in the Capital City. Working together, we can do even more for the LGBT community.”

The Equality Illinois central Illinois field office in Springfield will open in the fall and initially be staffed by a field fellow, who will build relationships with groups and individuals, train and motivate activists, and engage and facilitate educational, outreach, and other opportunities and programming for LGBT organizations throughout central and southern Illinois.

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