WRAP moves out of Braun Court

Longtime Ann Arbor community center to make transitions after lease isn't renewed

By Chris Azzopardi

The Washtenaw Rainbow Action Project, a community outreach organization in Ann Arbor, will move from its location at 319 Braun Court on Sept. 30.

"We were unaware of deliberation to close the doors or to change WRAP's mission," Keith Orr and Martin Contreras, who own the building, wrote in a statement.

Though WRAP's board of directors decided not to renew the building's lease, Orr and Contreras said they weren't notified of it until the morning of Aug. 24: Tens days after the decision was made, according to the landlords.

"We have spoken to other major sponsors and donors, and none had any knowledge of this decision until Friday's announcement," they said. "If there were any community discussions, we are unaware of them."

Michael McGuire, the president of WRAP, says the landlords were told in a "timely way" that the organization wouldn't be renewing its lease. Still, Orr said he wishes there could have been more community and donor involvement on deciding the future of WRAP.

"The community never had an opportunity to say, 'Oh, my God, we didn't know it was in this situation, and what do you need? Do you need money? Do you need volunteers? Do you need more people for the board?'" Orr said. "Whether you're the corporation that gives a thousand dollars or two-thousand dollars or the individual that gives 20 bucks, you feel like, 'If I've given something, I'm part of this organization.'"

McGuire, who maintains that WRAP isn't permanently closing, says the decision required a "great deal of energy and thought." A press release from the organization says a "comprehensive evaluation" of its programs and services will help decide what kind of physical space it needs.

"I think it's a necessary transition, or else the board wouldn't have made that decision," McGuire said. "It provides a new opportunity for reassessment and evaluation and creating something that continues to be important to the community."

Orr and Contreras already are moving forward, looking to find ways to continue WRAP's services - like housing the American Friends Service Committee's LGBT Issues Program and anonymous HIV testing - to the LGBT community of 319 Braun Court. "Our primary concern is that services provided will cease," they said. "This is of immediate concern, since the decision to close the center takes effect in just over five weeks."

Orr and Contreras currently are working with AFSC program director Kate Runyon to ensure the organization maintains a location in Ann Arbor. Nothing is finalized, Runyon said, but AFSC wants to stay in Washtenaw County for visibility reasons, for general community outreach and to continue to provide an outlet for LGBT people of faith.

"It's sad to see WRAP need to move to the next cycle in their organization by moving out of the building," Runyon said. "I hope that we'll continue to have a community center in Ann Arbor of some kind."

Chris Azzopardi is the entertainment editor of Between The Lines. To reach him, send an e-mail to chris@pridesource.com.

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