COMPASS The Gay and Lesbian (and Everyone) Community Center for Palm Beach County
In January of 2007 we had the pleasure of being asked to volunteer to work with Compass; first to review the feasibility of using the old Senior Citizenís Center at 201 North Dixie Highway in Lake Worth as a potential new home for Compass, second to design how it could be used, and third, to prepare renderings and presentations sufficient to convince the Town to lease the property to Compass for 20 years.
Upon starting the renovations, costly deferred maintenance problems were uncovered: mold, mildew, asbestos, termites, and water rot; yet, using more cleverness than money, the project finished within its original $1,500,000 budget.
These inspiring words from President Barack Hussein Obama's Inaugural Address on January 20, 2009 in Washington, D.C. welcome all visitors as they enter Compass, and aptly convey the tone and tenor of the Mission that everyone at Compass strives so aptly, selflessly and nobly to accomplish.
Upon visiting the facility, we were immediately impressed with the possibilities. The building seemed purpose built, ideal for Compass and all its community service programs and for all the groups that meet in their facility on a regular basis.
The building spoke to us, and inspired a concept of a clean but not clinical interior, of a professional but open, bright and welcoming environment, of a simple but classy design approach far different from the DMV or a City Hall kind of public building.
We visited the old Compass facility and asked to be shown how its programs worked. We pretended to be clients visiting Compass for its many and various public services. While we were terribly impressed and moved by the staffís professionalism and great compassion, we were equally appalled at the physical condition of the cluttered offices and cramped rooms where the interviews and counseling took place.
We asked ourselves: What if we were 20 or 30 or 40-somethings, tired of bars and clubs but looking for a place to relax and meet people? What if we were retired and wanted to donate time and services to a good cause? What if we had joined AA and wanted a pleasant place to attend their meetings.
The solution was a multi-functional social center with a clubhouse look, using indoor/outdoor furniture and fabrics, designed so that everything can be moved around to serve a multitude of situations, with a white player Baby Grand Piano at the heart of everything.
Jim Goodman donated his three original sculptures "Free Spirits" to grace the Great Hall, which also serves as the library to house all the books and videos available to the public.
We asked ourselves: If we were young people, what would we want in a youth drop-in room, a safe place to join friends, watch movies, dance, do homework? And answered with a room with a dance floor, karaoke broadcast on overhead TVís, game tables, conversation areas, bean bag chairs, fun lighting and dťcor Ė with the Youth Services Office and the Cyber Center right next door.
As designers we thought: What if we were troubled people coming for HIV testing, family counseling, or needing any of the many compassionate services that Compass provides? And we were inspired to produce interview rooms lined with comfortable sofa-like banquets with lots of cheerful throw pillows, a place where the client and counselor could meet in clean, uncluttered, comfortable, and private rooms.
We took the worst room in the facility, with the lowest ceiling and no windows, and made it into the "Zone" - a quiet conversation room complete with an underwater motif and Lava Lamps.
Compass boasts two outdoor courtyards. This one is at the end of the Great Hall, with three fountains and a fire pit with indoor/outdoor seats around it.
A "U" shaped hall, which we named "Main Street", links the Youth Drop-in Center, the rest rooms, staff break room, counseling rooms, the elevator to the confidential offices up-stairs, and the Board Room. It is the place where information is distributed via posters, brochures, and magazines.
The Board Room, as well as all meeting and counseling rooms, is WIFI ready for anyone who brings his laptop, and all have hi-tech flat screen presentation capabilities. Here is a photograph of the CEO's half of the Board Room:
The David Bohnett Foundation has funded a cyber-center at Compass, open to the general public, where guests can use the computers, surf the internet, check email, and take classes on computers and computer software.
The case workers, social workers, staff psychologists, and counselors who provide all the community services, youth and family services, and health and education services, under contract to various Federal, State and County organizations, have their private and confidential offices upstairs where the public is not permitted. To make the work spaces as enjoyable as possible, we punched holes through the walls and installed windows so that, no matter where you are, you can enjoy natural light and a view of sunny blue skies.
Seeing the tremendous potential for meetings and social affairs of all types and sizes, we ordered optional round tops to go on all the square tables so that the Great Hall could be turned into a pre-function space for a catered event, and the large meeting room could seat 176 for a sit-down dinner. With 250 stacking chairs kept in the huge roomís storage closets, and with the ability to divide the room into three meeting or function areas, large and small meetings and movie audiences can be accommodated comfortably.
Thanks to all the generous donors and hard work of the staff, management and Board of Compass, and thanks to the dedicated attention to every detail by everyone who worked on the construction, we are thrilled and proud to announce that the building has finally opened to the public; and for the first time since 2003, all the activities and staff of Compass will be housed in one building, the new Home of Compass in Lake Worth.
James Goodman said, "I have always believed in the theory set forth in Ayn Randís novel The Fountainhead, that people can be inspired and uplifted through design. My hope is that, in this facility, I have hit that mark." Judging by all the smiles and applause at the Grand Opening on March 20, 2009, it appears he was successful.
Morgan Fairchild & Gavin Newsom discuss Compass, Inc.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, now a California gubernatorial candidate, spoke in the new facility just days after it opened, and said, ďIíve been in a hundred centers around the country, and Iíve never seen anything this nice.Ē
Actress and advocate Morgan Fairchild discussed the Compass community center. Please listen to what she had to say:
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.
201 North Dixie Highway Lake Worth FL 33460 561-533-9699
To volunteer or to make a contribution, please go to Compass' website or contact Julie Seaver at firstname.lastname@example.org, 561-533-9699 ext. 4038, or drop by the center. All are welcome.
Compass, Inc. is a private 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, tax exempt organization and does not endorse any candidate for political office. A copy of the official registration and financial information may be obtained from the Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-800-321-5366 within the State of Florida. Our Federal tax ID number is 65- 0052657. Registration does not imply endorsement, approval or recommendation by the State.