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October 8th, 2008 Byron Beck | Queer Window
 

The Fairies’ Godfather

Unassuming hero raises funds for new Q Center.

     
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Q Center Executive Director Kendall Clawson got two things in June: a donor willing to match up to $200,000 that she could raise toward a long-overdue new home for the gay center—and a new reason to rally her queer troops.

“This wasn’t only a test for Q Center,” said Kendall Clawson, executive director of the meeting place for Portland’s gay, lesbian bi and transgendered folks. “This was a test for our community.”

In mid-June the Q Center had just gone through, between programming and presentations, its busiest time of the year (disclosure: My partner, Juan Martinez, used to be on the center’s board of directors) when an anonymous donor later identified as local art collector Ed Cauduro said he’d match dollar-for-dollar, if Clawson could raise $200,000 in 90 days.

In an era of $700 billion bailouts, $200,000 may not seem like much. But Cauduro’s promise gave Clawson a chance to fast-forward her dreams for an organization that’s already grown out of its smallish space near Southeast Water Avenue after three years. Besides a couple of big donations early on, Clawson says the Q Center primarily relied on the kindness of the queer community that used it. Translation: The gay soccer moms and trans dads who have been holding their potlucks here have been the ones keeping its doors open.

Clawson was drawing up a five-year plan to make the move.

But that all changed with Cauduro’s gift.

With an overall annual operating budget of $175,000, the gift left Clawson with the challenge of raising, in 90 days, more than the group makes or spends in a year. To do that, Clawson took herself out of the day-to-day operations. She handed off most of that to Glen Goodfellow, the Q Center’s only other paid staff member.

On Oct. 1 Clawson reached her goal (and then some)—without ever meeting her benefactor.

“I knew who he was,” Clawson said. “But it was strange that I still have yet to meet him.”

Cauduro is something of a local legend. A collector of tramp art and cookie jars, Cauduro is also a bit of an art collector. Okay, more than a bit. When I visited his home a few years back in the Pearl District (he now lives in Vancouver, Wash.), it was like walking into a museum of contemporary art full of Warhols, Basquiats, Koonses, Longos, pretty much all the big-time art stars of the last century. What isn’t known about the native Oregonian and former insurance salesman is how much he gives away (by selling off his masterpieces) to homeless and battered women’s shelters, as well as animal rights, suicide hotlines and other needy groups. And now the Q Center.

Last week I talked about the semi-reclusive good Samaritan with his longtime friend Dane Nelson (Cauduro declined to do an interview with WW about his gift).

Nelson said it was Cauduro’s wish to help an organization that “really needed it.” Although Cauduro had already made a previous donation of $200,000 toward a new building earlier in the year, it was his hope that by offering a second $200,000 in matching funds for others’ contributions, the Q Center would shake loose more donors.

“There is a difference between the first and second gift,” Clawson said. “The second one—with the match included in it—helped us find out if our community would be willing to support a new building. The answer is yes.”

Clawson admits this is just a first (albeit very big) step toward a project that needs $500,000 more. She says the real test has only begun for the Q Center as she and fellow board members zero in on a new home.

“Our focus goes back to what we do every day, which is providing our services,” Clawson said. “But we still have a half-million to go for us to buy a building along with trying to keep the doors open. This challenge isn’t over by a long shot. But right now, we are just enjoying the afterglow.”

 
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