LGBT advocacy organization Equality Illinois, on Aug. 29, announced an expanded statewide strategy that included a central Illinois field office and the first in a network of local partnerships.
In a statement, CEO Bernard Cherkasov said that the strategy allows the organization to better engage with Illinoisans in parts of the state still lacking in resources needed to obtain full LGBT equality.
"In an environment where marriage equality is secured for same-sex couples, our work to obtain full lived equality is not done," said Cherkasov. "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."
The field office will open in Springfield this fall and will initially be staffed by a field fellow who will build relationships with groups and individuals, train local activists and engage with other LGBT organizations throughout central and southern Illinois.
The organization's first strategic community partner is the Phoenix Center, Springfield's LGBT community center. Among the services it offers are 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. In its capacity as a community partner to Equality Illinois, the Phoenix Center will advise on priorities and needs in the area and coordinate local 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," added 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 expanded statewide strategy is partially funded through the support of the Abe and Ida Cooper Foundation, with the balance funded by a portion of Equality Illinois' cash reserves, according to the release.