OutCenter Board Names New Executive Director

BENTON HARBOR - The OutCenter Board of Directors announced the appointment of current Interim Executive Director, Mary Jo Schnell, as executive director effective Aug. 3.

The board indicated that Schnell is a highly skilled leader who will be an excellent steward of the OutCenter's mission and effective advocate for LGBT people and their families in southwest Michigan.

Schnell has assisted the OutCenter in past years and took on the role of interim executive director in 2012, where she worked with the board, staff, consultants, interns and volunteers to prepare and pivot the organization's operations, programs and protocols to abide by nonprofit business practices. She led the restructuring of key programs including the Teen Pride Program, which increased attendance by 92 percent, as well as the LGBT-plus Cultural Competency Training which continues to help agencies and organizations better reach and serve LGBT people and their families.

Before joining the OutCenter, Schnell had more than 20 years experience working in all levels of the national and local nonprofit sector, gaining a multitude of skills from her leadership roles as executive director, and serving as an organization board member to her time spent in fundraising and as program staff. She has experience with direct service organizations, planning and rolling out national trainings and conferences to create dynamic program-specific learning communities, as well as with organizations focused on creating positive change in communities large and small.

"The OutCenter will continue to play a unique and vital role in creating truly whole communities across southwest Michigan," Schnell said after accepting the position. "I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the OutCenter in engaging the community, strategic partners and leadership in all sectors to fully realize equality in southwest Michigan, where LGBT-plus people and their families are welcomed, respected, valued, understood and afforded the same rights and responsibilities as everyone else."

"The board is excited to have Mary Jo as the head of the OutCenter team," Board President Paul Lane said. "Her leadership and experience are vital to the organization as we work with our partners to strengthen and preserve equality for all in southwest Michigan."

OutCenter was founded in 2003 and seeks to provide support and advocacy for the respect, understanding and nondiscrimination of LGBT people and their families in southwestern Michigan.
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