Compass aims to diminish stereotypes by challenging long-standing misconceptions about the character of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. We accomplish this by emboldening our youth, promoting pride in our community, and acting as an educator, advocate, health service provider, and focal point for community organizing. As good neighbors, effective partners, and respected participants in our civic responsibilities, Compass promotes awareness of the caring nature of our diverse community.
Compass’ History – A Legacy of Community Building
In 1988, a local group of community-centered men and women joined our nation’s efforts to educate the public about the spread of HIV by starting the Stop AIDS Project of South Florida, Inc. With federal funding and strategic grassroots organizing, friends, families and co-workers opened their homes and businesses and facilitated meetings to identify those living with HIV, and to equip the larger community with knowledge and skills necessary to protect themselves from contracting the virus.
As the Stop AIDS program grew over the following four years, the board of directors – along with volunteers – recognized the role that stigma, bias and discrimination 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. With private contributions and local funding from the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, that group of volunteers established Compass as the gay and lesbian community center of Palm Beach County in 1992.
Over the course of the next decade, Compass continued to prove itself as a leader in HIV prevention and care efforts, and as an organizer of information and referral services for gay and lesbian youth and adults who needed assistance at home, at work or in school as they navigated their way toward empowered, healthy, productive lives. For over ten years, Compass remained as the sole provider of crisis and care services for people living with HIV for the Palm Beach County Department of Health. Today, Compass has on-site HIV case management services to connect newly-diagnosed people to care, and continues its tradition as an expert in HIV prevention activities in partnership with the Florida State Department of Health.
In 1999, with the help of a generous contribution from Ken Adams, Compass’ board of trustees set an ambitious goal – to make all of Palm Beach County a safe place for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and their friends and families. Compass created one of the largest outreach events of its kind in Florida and Palm Beach County’s history, Pridefest of Lake Worth and the Palm Beaches (2000). Then, in an effort to connect local residents to their municipal, state and national representatives, Compass created the Stonewall Ball (2002), along with the Palm Beach County Human Rights Council, so that our unique and diverse voices would be heard and understood by those with the responsibility to lead us.
In 2003, Compass opened the first gay and lesbian cyber center in Florida with the help of the David Bohnett Foundation, and in 2005 became the first gay and lesbian community center in the nation to host the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibition, “The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals (1933-1945).” And in 2007, Compass entered into a unique public-private partnership with the City of Lake Worth, FL to renovate and operate a city-owned building that has existed as a facility addressing urgent needs for seniors for more than 30 years.
Compass is the largest gay and lesbian community center in Florida and the Southeast United States and one of the largest and most respected of its kind in the nation. More than 25,000 people utilize its 14,000 square foot facility, and more than 17,000 referrals are fielded by more than 12,000 volunteer hours graciously contributed by hundreds of community-centered individuals each year.
In 2013, Compass and its family will proudly celebrate more than 25 years of service to Palm Beach County, South Florida and the many constituents who have donated their time, money and expertise to advance one united mission: to diminish stereotypes by challenging long-standing misconceptions about the character of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Compass accomplishes its mission each day by emboldening our youth, promoting pride in our community, and acting as an educator, advocate, health service provider, and focal point for community organizing.
As good neighbors, effective partners, and respected participants in our civic responsibilities, Compass promotes awareness of the caring nature of our diverse community, and continues to make history doing so.
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