Effective Sept. 6, Jeff Rindler, the Hudson Valley LGBTQ Community Center’s director of programs and services since May, will become the center’s executive director.
Following the unexpected death of J. Tracy Hermann in March, the president of the center’s board, Fred Mayo had served as acting executive director.
Rindler brings to the position over 20 years of not-for-profit experience, mainly with the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center in New York City, the nation’s first AIDS service organization. His work at the LGBTQ Community Center began in May, when he was hired as director of programs & services. Since Rindler’s arrival, said Mayo, the Center has been “establishing connections with other organizations and rekindling old ones.” In six months, the center has done 23 different Cultural Competency Trainings, which help create safe and welcoming environments for LGBTQ persons by educating organizations on the use of inclusive language and practices. A recent training organized by Rindler and a senior administrator of the Wappingers Central School District was attended by 130 teachers and administrators. Rindler stressed the particular value of a training that included the full administration. “It’s important that everyone hears the same thing in the same room,” he said.
In addition to expanding existing services, Rindler has helped the center to introduce new programs. A notable addition was the Legal Name Change Clinic. In a collaboration with Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, the Center helped trans individuals to fill out and notarize the necessary paperwork for a legal name change. “We’re a place where people feel comfortable,” says Rindler. “People weren’t necessarily going to the lawyer’s office.”
Rindler was also with the center in the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando. He helped organize the Kingston vigil and compile a resource list of other vigils, and suggested keeping a candle burning perpetually at the center throughout the month of June, which Mayo says was visited by a number of people.
Aside from his programming work, Rindler says that he’s spent much of the past few months getting acquainted with the history of the center. Though he’s spent most of his life living and working in the city, Rindler has had a lifelong connection to the Hudson Valley, first when visiting his grandparents, then his mother when she relocated here. “I’ve had dual residency for eight years,” said Rindler. “In April, I decided to leave GMHC and look at what it would be like to live up here full time.” Rindler had initially planned to take time off, but when he saw that the center was hiring for the position of director of programs & services, he knew that he had to apply. “It looked like it was written for me,” said Rindler. “My partner said, ‘I knew you couldn’t not work!’”
Rindler said the center’s philosophy is “very much in line” with his own. While he acknowledges there are still many issues with homophobia and transphobia everywhere, Rindler describes the Hudson Valley as “very embracing … The fact that we are right on Wall Street in Uptown Kingston is a testament to how the community holds the center and the LGBTQ community.”
He added that the outpouring of support following the shooting in Orlando was a visible display of the Hudson Valley’s compassion for LGBTQ people. “The vigil was not just LGBTQ community. This massacre affects everyone. The entire community was outraged and heartbroken,” he says. According to the center, approximately 250 people attended the Kingston vigil.
Mayo noted the influence of County Executive Mike Hein, whom he says has been especially supportive, working to make Ulster “a model” for LGBTQ safety and rights.
According to Rindler, the center’s mission is three-pronged: they aim to bring services, education and socialization opportunities to the community. He said that the center offers “an extraordinary amount of services” but that he hopes to oversee the introduction of even more opportunities in his time as executive director. Rindler said he aims to bring in more medical services such as access to mental health professionals and more information regarding prevention and treatment of HIV, as well as more social groups. Among the proposed social activities are a coming-out group, a game night, an afternoon movie geared toward older adults and a group called “From City to Country,” which will help people relocating from the city get acclimated with life in the Hudson Valley. “Groups build community and familiarity,” said Rindler. “Very often, we are one of the first calls when people move here.”
Rindler also hopes to continue to build collaboration with other organizations. “We have some incredible partners,” he said. The center, he noted, is an access point for a lot of people searching for their place in the larger community. “Our role is to be the place where the community comes in laughter, in tears, to learn, to teach and to share.”