SALT LAKE CITY — It's been months since the Utah Pride Center has been filled with the vibrant lives it serves.
The building sat empty over the New Year holiday, with spaces like the youth and family area in the basement colorfully decorated and ready for when people can return.
"When school is happening, this place is like the place to be. It's so fun. It's just like, alive," said Jonathan Foulk, Utah Pride Center's associate executive director. "Obviously with COVID, we're not able to do that right now."
No one may be showing up to the Salt Lake City nonprofit's physical location, but Foulk explained that they're still connecting with LGBTQIA+ youth, families, adults, and seniors virtually.
In fact, he said their services have expanded across Utah during the pandemic. It has kept them busy during 2020.
Foulk said their mental health team is working around the clock.
"We have a waiting list. We don't have enough therapists to answer those calls. We don't have enough therapists to have those one-on-ones with," he said.
In addition to offering suicide prevention and mental health services, the Utah Pride Center also offers trainings and runs programs for every age group.
The nonprofit has continued its programs during the pandemic, but without the funding it normally raises during the Utah Pride Parade and Festival — nearly a million dollars, Foulk said, which is over half of what the center needs to operate for the year.
"The center did go through a huge reorganization earlier this year," he said. "And part of that was, how do we make sure that the center does never close?"
In order to make ends meet, they had to lay off half of their staff.
Even though the Utah Pride Center fundraised in other, creative ways (like October's Pride 2.0 Road Rally, which brought in roughly $300,000), it still didn't rise to the level of the Pride Festival.
Foulk described how they recently tried to secure a grant from the Governor's Office of Economic Development called the COVID-19 Live Events Grant.
He talked about how they got all their paperwork in order ahead of time and started the application process right at 9 a.m. when it opened on Dec. 15. They had everything submitted by 9:28 a.m., he said.
"We applied for $150,000, and we saw on the application that it was declined," Foulk said.
According to what Foulk said GOED told him, the $3 million that was available on a first-come, first-served basis was gone in less than 20 minutes after the application window opened.
While 2020 was rough, Foulk indicated that 2021 will continue to be a challenge for the nonprofit to navigate.
Next week, they expect to discuss the future of the Pride Festival. It's doubtful that a full-on festival with 75,000 people will be fine to host in June, which means they'll still be looking for other ways to fundraise.
"For us, we're really trying to think outside of the box in how we can be creative in our fundraising efforts, and really looking at how we can provide all our services to the community and not just be shut down," he said.
Foulk did say that they are looking at a couple different options for the Pride Festival. They may look at an event with reduced capacity at Washington Square or another venue, he said, and celebrate with both virtual and in-person elements.
Though it all depends on what is safe to host by then.
It's also uncertain when the center can reopen and bring back the people they serve in-person — people who needed the Utah Pride Center's help more than ever during the pandemic.
"This is their home, this is their family," Foulk said. "This is their chosen family."