Pink Triangle extends its reach in the community to mark silver anniversary

A new logo, a new vision and a new leader will launch Pink Triangle Services’ 26th year on March 29, as members hope to reach out to more people within the community.

The support centre was originally founded as a resource primarily for gays and lesbians, says the group’s new acting executive director Claudia Van den Heuvel.

The group’s new vision embraces all members of the GLBTTQ community, recognizing sexual orientation, but also gender identity and gender expression.

This vision embraces a wider portion of the community, including those who identify as transgender or transsexual.

Pink Triangle has served the capital’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirited and queer community since 1984, when it was founded by a small but enthusiastic group of volunteers.

The Bank Street organization offers support services for the community including a GLBTTQ library and a variety of discussion groups.

Jennifer MacDonald volunteers at the centre, where she runs a bisexual discussion group called Bi-Amore. She says this group is an example of how the organization is reaching out to more members of  Ottawa's GLBTTQ community.

“We have to give a voice to all of the different, complex identities that people are struggling with. Nothing is black and white,” MacDonald says.

Van den Heuvel also designed a new logo for the centre. The new design is comprised of three intersecting circles, representing the three facets of the new vision: sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, as well as unity in

Ottawa’s diverse community.

Henschel says the group’s former logo, the pink triangle, no longer wholly represents the community.

“The pink triangle is very specific to gay men, and we don’t serve just the ‘G’ part of the GLBTTQ community,” says Michael Henschel, president of Pink Triangle Services.

“It’s an important step now to make sure our identity matches the fact that we work within all aspects of the queer community.”

Claudia Van den Heuvel started working at the centre 10 years ago as an administrative assistant, but her role has changed nearly every year. She has managed the office and coordinated volunteers for the past three years, but now she will lead the organization.

“My knowledge of this organization is pretty vast,” says Van den Heuvel, who has dealt with almost every aspect of the group.

As executive director she’ll deal with finances, raising funds, communications and community relations. Van den Heuvel says she is very excited to lead these initiatives.

“She’s hit the ground running,” says Henschel. “She knows where things are and where things are going.”

The changes surrounding the anniversary mark a new chapter for Pink Triangle. The group has had its share of challenges throughout its history.

In 2004, some founding members accused the agency of financial faux pas and unlawful election of the Pink Triangle board.

Later that year, the organization hired some staff members instead of running solely on volunteer power.

During that period, the face of the organization changed dramatically, says Van den Heuvel.

“What I’ve seen is us stabilizing,” says Van den Heuvel. The centre's operations are growing steadier, and they are in the process of strengthening their fundraising, she says.

Like any small charity, Pink Triangle Services struggles financially, says Henschel.

“We always struggle and we have targets we need to hit to make sure that things are working the way they’re supposed to,” he says.

This February, Van den Heuvel started an email newsletter that has tripled donations to the support centre.

These funding increases bring the organization closer to its target goal of $4,000 a month. Van den Heuvel says this is a high goal.

“There’s so many things that this agency can do,” she says. “Our dreams are greater than our resources, at least right now.”

The support centre operates with over 100 volunteers, and has had 12 new volunteers sign up this month.

“I’m in awe of the volunteers now,” says Henschel. “People put so much effort into making sure things happen here.”

The group will mark their 25th anniversary with a volunteer appreciation party on March 31.