New SAAF Center for LGBTQ Youth to open in 2017

Date:            For Immediate Release, 1/10/2017
Contact:       Wendell Hicks,Executive Director
Ethan Smith Cox, Director of Development
(520) 547-6105
SAAF is very excited to announce its newest project to support the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) community, the Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th- A SAAF Place for Youth. This project will create a dedicated space on 4th avenue which will house several of SAAF’s LGBTQ youth-centered prevention programs, including Eon, HIV Youth Peer Education (HYPE), and Arizona’s Life Links for Youth (Project ALLY). This newest initiative is being funded through a $1.8 million capital campaign which began in March 2016 and has raised more than $1.5 million, to date.
Curtis Thornhill, a Tucson native who now calls Salt Lake City “home”, has provided the lead gift for the campaign and has challenged SAAF to raise an additional $300,000 by the end of March 2017. Thornhill stated, “I was born in Tucson and grew up in southern Arizona. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love and support of amazing mentors who have guided and challenged me to reach my full potential. The Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th is an opportunity to equip a new generation with the same gifts.”
The Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th will provide a safe space as well as skills-building, advocacy, and culturally competent care to LGBTQ youth and their allies ages 13-26. SAAF Executive Director Wendell Hicks, says, “Since taking over many initiatives from Wingspan, southern Arizona’s LGBTQ community center for more than a quarter century, 2 & ½ years ago, we here at SAAF have searched for the right way to re-launch LGBTQ programming in Tucson in a sustainable way that was directly responsive to community needs and immediately addressed gaps in services. The Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th will do just that. We are so fortunate for the support of Mr. Thornhill as well as the nearly 100 other donors to the campaign, so far.”
Members of the media are invited to an invitation-only groundbreaking event taking place on Tuesday January 24, 2017 at 4:00pm at the Thornhill Lopez Center on 4th, located at 526 North 4th Avenue. Mr. Thornhill and SAAF staff will be available for interviews prior to the event. Please contact Ethan Smith Cox, SAAF Director of Development, at (520) 547-6105, to schedule an interview time.
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1 thought on “New SAAF Center for LGBTQ Youth to open in 2017”

  1. Over 100 people (donors, community members, media) there today for this groundbreaking (actually a wall breaking)ceremony. Welcome by Ethan Smith Cox, Dev Director, saying that “Tucson is SO gay, with an “amazing level of support”. Construction of the center to begin in March and opening hopefully in June, 2017. EON volunteer for 9 years, Robert Bell spoke that gay youth need a place like this, that EON “changed lives”, esp. the homeless youth, living with fear, in the 13 to 24 age range. Then Richard Elias, D 5 Supervisor spoke to welcome the center back to 4th Avenue, that “Tucson stands together, strong to overcome stigma for LGBTQ youth, who will lead us into the future”. Then E.D. of SAAF Wendell Hicks spoke about this “emotional day” reminding people of the 3rd grade boy (himself) who was attracted to a male, but could not say anything till he was 19 years old. Wendell mentioned that the EON Youth Lounge had closed 2.5 years ago (was on E. 7th St., east of 4th Avenue). Finally benefactor & namesake Curtis Thornhill spoke, saying today was about “everyone on the room, plus “hope, opportunity and promise” for gay youth. He asked for donations to raise the remaining $300,000 for this great project. He introduced his mother (maiden name Lopez), other family members who flew in for this event. Also present today — Mayor of Salt Lake City (friend of Curtis) Jackie Biskupski and Ward 3 Councilmember Karin Uhlich. After the speeches, the VIP in the room donned hard hats & goggles and used sledge hammers to start breaking down the rear wall to open up the triangular room just behind it. Realtor Colette Barajas (office is next door) brokered the sale of the property to SAAF, and donated her Commission to the project.

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