A lot can change in 30 years. Thirty years ago the Apple IIc computer went on sale for $1,295. Thirty years ago the first National Coming Out Day was recognized.
And 30 years ago, HIV/AIDS had already killed thousands of Americans, yet most Americans knew very little about it. In response, thi years ago, the Stop AIDS Project began in South Florida, with the mission of educating people about the disease, how it is spread, and how to avoid infection.
Over the next four years, the Stop AIDS Project volunteers recognized the role that stigma, bias and discrimination against the gay and lesbian community played in the transmission of HIV, and identified a critical need to provide a safe space for youth and adults who were struggling with issues related to sexual orientation and gender identity. The organization re-focused to this purpose, and changed its name to Compass Community Center to reflect its broader mission.
Today, Compass means many things to many people: It’s a youth group, where friends are made for life. It’s a support system when you need help through tough times. It’s a safe place to escape the Florida heat, and it’s a cybercenter with computers available for work, school, and socializing. Compass is a resource to find businesses and service providers in the area which are LGBTQ-owned or -friendly, through our annual Pride Guide listing of Pride Business Alliance members. Most importantly, it is a place to get a free and confidential HIV test, and case management services for those who are living with the virus.
Without Compass’ volunteers, none of this would be possible. Our army of dedicated volunteers continue to be a vital part of the center’s events and activities. They are the face of Compass at the front desk, they keep our garden looking beautiful, they mentor our youth, and they fill countless behind-the scenes roles at our community events and center gatherings throughout the year.
We’ve been celebrating our 30th birthday all year, starting with Palm Beach Pride to the Stonewall Ball and beyond. We continue to grow, and have added programs and events such as the first ever Legacy Project, which connected our youth to our elders in meaningful conversations which were presented through a mix of live performance and videos at Palm Beach Dramaworks in October. Now we’re wrapping up this extraordinary year with two weeks of World AIDS Day programming, with panels displayed not only in the center for the public to view, but also at various locations around the county, including the Flamingo Gallery in Lake Worth, Palm Beach State College, Lynn University, FAU College of Medicine, and Trinity Point Church in West Palm Beach.
Compass’ staff and board of directors are proud of our long-standing relationship with the people of Palm Beach County, and are grateful to you all for your tireless support and involvement. Without the community, there would be no community center.
Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do – here’s to 30 more years of making a difference!