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February 1, 2013

 

Counseling groups merge

LGBT

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Visitors pack the new Cortland Prevention Resource Center, which includes the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual Resource Center, during an open house Thursday afternoon.

By NEIL BENJAMIN JR.
Staff Reporter
nbenjamin@cortlandstandardnews.net

A ceremony on Thursday celebrated the merger of two organizations in the city aimed at stopping kids from abusing drugs and making other destructive decisions.
Cortland Prevention Resources and Family Counseling Services will now work together at 73 Main St., while the Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual Resource Center also moved into the two-story space.
The LGBT Center is expected to merge with Family Counseling Services —a group that offers alcohol and substance abuse education, a mental health clinic, family counseling, youth counseling and youth mentoring — sometime in the summer so that local residents have one place to go for various resources.
Lisa Hoeschele, executive director for Family Counseling Services, said Thursday’s merger is a big step in the right direction for the city.
“Now, instead of having two competing services, we’re both working together under one roof, creating a large and effective program aimed at providing a safe environment in school and the community,” Hoeschele said. “Basically, two small nonprofits merged, no jobs were lost and we can expand upon the services we provide.”
The gathering saw some familiar faces from the community, including Alderman Ken Dye (D-3rd Ward), City Police Chief F. Michael Catalano and county Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Bob Haight, among others. Dye said he showed up to support something he thinks is necessary in the community.
“I have to support it because I think this is one of the better things to happen in a while,” he said. “You have three great resources under one roof, working for a common goal. They’re not hidden away anymore (by being on Main Street).”
He was referring to the LGBT Center, which used to be at 29 Central Ave.
Kimberly McRae Friedman, director of Cortland Prevention Resources, said the merger will allow the groups to work together in providing better services for local youths, families and the LGBT community.
“The goal all-around is to provide better quality services to Cortland County,” Friedman said. “And being on Main Street is a good thing, because we accept walk-ins. Now maybe more people will notice we’re around.”
Janita Moricette, 27, is a lesbian who grew up in New York City and moved to Cortland in 2010. She is the girlfriend of Leah Calzolaio, project coordinator for the LGBT Center.
She said the services she receives far exceed what she would expect.
“I get to come here and get some counseling, talk to people about things I wouldn’t be able to in other areas,” she said. “The people here understand, and the counseling, which they don’t have to provide, is so great.”
She added that she is “incredibly proud” of her girlfriend for being a part of all this.
Leslie Wilkins, assistant director for Cortland Prevention Resources, said the merger was “just a formalization,” and that there is more to come down the line.
“I am really anticipating much more growth now that this has happened,” she said. “Everyone in this building brings different expertise, and things can only get better from here.”
Haight said this was a big day for the city.
“We had two organizations with similar issues that are now one, and they are both open and willing to combine all resources,” Haight said.

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