Gaia House Interfaith Center is a community center that means many things to many people. For over half a century, this unique building has been a place to meet new people, share meals with friends and neighbors, get involved in environmental and social justice projects, and explore a wide variety of spiritual practices and philosophical teachings. There are many people and groups that call this place home, and many ways in which this Center serves the Southern Illinois community. However, Gaia House is on the verge of closing due to a lack of sufficient funding. Without your support, our doors will close sometime within the next month or two, and this community treasure will be lost forever.
The bad news about the situation at Gaia House is funding. Earlier in the Center’s history, we were funded primarily by several churches that supported our interfaith work. Over time, however, the annual funding from these sources has diminished. We’ve been able to generate some income by charging rent for office and meeting space, asking for donations at our programs, teaching a variety of classes, and holding fundraising events. Our income, however, has not been enough to match the basic expenses of keeping the building open. This has lead to deficit spending which has gradually eroded our savings.
We knew that the budget was in crisis. But when we received our financial reports from 2011, we realized that we didn’t have enough money to make it to the end of Spring Semester, much less the start of Fall Semester. Unless we receive enough short-term funding to make it through the next few months, our doors will close before we have time to implement our mid-term and long-term fundraising plans.
The good news is that we have many people in Carbondale, Southern Illinois, and beyond who are passionate about Gaia House. Some of them belong to groups that rent space or hold meetings here. Some come to the two weekly dinners or other events. Some simply like to experience and support a place full of independent thinkers who welcome people of all faiths, beliefs, nationalities, identities, and orientations. Regardless of why people come here, many of them have already started expressing a willingness to put their valuable time, energy, and money into the effort to save Gaia House. If you feel the same way, I urge you to join us in doing everything we can to keep Gaia House open!
The other good news is that our Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday was well-attended and brought many good options to light. Some of these are short-term efforts like our new fundraiser on Facebook. Others are mid-term or long-term efforts like teaching language classes, holding dinners and bake sales, having a Spring fundraising party in March, pursuing more grants, and starting a new membership program that would allow us to hold a membership drive and offer special benefits for people who choose to become Gaia House members.
There’s definitely a lot of energy, passion, and support for this place. There are also some clear plans about where to get started and room for more ideas from creative individuals who want to make a difference. Your support will ensure that we have the time, energy, and money that we need to get through this budget crisis and make Gaia House the best community center it can be!
Here are just a few examples of how you can get involved:
- FundRazr on Facebook: FundRazr is a service that combines using PayPal to donate to Gaia House and using Facebook to spread the word. This will help spread the word quickly and bring in some funding to keep us going while we organize other efforts. It’s also a good way to let people know about the campaign who haven’t been to Gaia House in a long time, or who haven’t been here at all but enjoy supporting community causes. If you don’t use Facebook, you can also visit the Gaia House Donations Page.
- Stakeholder Retreat: Gaia House Interfaith Center is holding a Stakeholder Retreat on Saturday, February 18 from 1 pm to 5 pm. This is an opportunity for everyone who likes Gaia House to come together in one place to learn the latest news, talk about the budget crisis, and explore the overall mission and vision of this Center.
- Stay Connected: Gaia House has a weekly newsletter called Happenings in Faith, Peace, and Justice. This is an opportunity to learn more about what goes on here as well as stay informed about the latest fundraising efforts. We also have a Gaia House Facebook Page with regular updates about the Center.
- Be Creative: What we need most right now are creative and passionate people like you to share your energy and your vision with us! We hope to meet our short-term funding goals through this fundraising drive, but our long-term success will depend on the involvement of community organizers and social entrepreneurs. We’re looking for creative proposals about new programs and services that Gaia House can provide that fulfill our vision of community service while also generating the funds that we need to keep the doors open. Come to our events, get involved, and share your brilliance with us today!
Gaia House Interfaith Center is definitely in a moment of crisis. However, with every crisis comes an opportunity. Everyone involved in Gaia House now has the opportunity to reflect on what this Center is, what it means to us, and how we can organize the operations and programming here in a sustainable way. And you have the opportunity to find new ways of getting involved in Gaia House! This includes fundraising, but it also includes simply talking to the other people and groups who come here and coming together in a supportive community. We’re facing some difficult times, but together, we can make it through and come out the other side better for the experience.