Dear members, volunteers, and followers of WSJA,
We have some big news to share that’s been in the works for quite some time! We have found what we believe is our niche in Williamson County and are going to dissolve WSJA as a broader non-profit entity in favor of pursuing non-profit status for Wilco Iris, our initiative to serve LGBTQ+ youth in our county.
As most of you know, we started WSJA in the late summer of 2020 when the world was still shut down with the Coronavirus and reeling from multiple events of police brutality. We started with approximately 20 people, all of whom were passionate about becoming advocates for social justice change. We did some amazing things during our first year – meeting with other leaders and local organizations to find out how we could support them, while pushing forward with our motto, “Action over Silence.” We did this through our task forces focused on LGBTQ+ youth, vulnerable families, immigrants, at-risk youth, and racial equality. We knew it might not be sustainable but determined that we would learn and adjust along the way.
After that first year, the world started opening up again as the COVID vaccines became widely available, and our dedicated volunteer base (which had grown to approximately 200 people) were pulled in more directions. A few of our leaders faced burnout and while we were still generating new interest, it was difficult to continue with all the branches we had tried to keep alive. In late 2021 we started discussions about narrowing our focus, at least temporarily, to the main purpose we had found – our LGBTQ+ youth safe space group, Wilco Iris. This had arguably been our strongest initiative from the beginning, and although the safe space had a slow start with Zoom meetings, it continued to grow and flourish with our student leaders forging the way, supported by our dedicated adult volunteers.
Over the following year, it became more difficult to nurture Wilco Iris and all of its endeavors: monthly meetings (now twice a month); special events surrounding Franklin Pride, Halloween, Thanksgiving, the Franklin Christmas parade, our first annual LGBTQ+ prom (!) etc.; fundraising; and try to keep up, even minimally, with our larger intended WSJA presence and partnerships in the community. So in the fall of 2022, WSJA leadership and its board agreed to make Wilco Iris its own non-profit, and dissolve WSJA as a non-profit entity. Although we would love to see WSJA revived someday as a social justice group, passionate about creating positive change in our Williamson County community, we believe it would be more effective without the stringent responsibilities and political restrictions that come with maintaining non-profit status.
We’re very excited about the future of Wilco Iris, particularly after just holding our second, very successful prom for LGBTQIA+ high schoolers. Eve Boger, Amy Duncan, and Marci Carter have worked tirelessly as our leaders, and along with the newly appointed Wilco Iris board, have an exciting vision for what the future could hold.
We want to thank all of you for any amount of time, contributions, input, trust, talents, and support you all have given WSJA over the last few years, and hope that you’ll continue to support Wilco Iris either by volunteering, helping raise funding, or simply sharing about us! Over the next few months while we wait for our 501(c)(3) dissolution paperwork to be processed, any contributions will be gifted to Wilco Iris and all efforts will be shifted in that direction.
On a more personal note, I want to say how absolutely life-giving it has been to meet and work alongside you all. When I first started this group, I was hoping to find a community of like-minded people who wanted to create change in our little corner of the world, and I absolutely did. That first year was a labor of love, sweat, and sometimes tears, as we learned alongside each other and did our best to make a positive impact. And now I want to specifically call out some of the INCREDIBLE people who made WSJA what it was and kept it going that first year, especially Nancy Brady (my co-pilot that first year, involved in everything!), Marci Carter (our beautiful website designer and so much more; now co-leader of Wilco Iris), Becky Martin (our beautiful newsletters, communications, and more), Cindy Konyn (our vulnerable families task force leader and storage unit director), Mona Ivey-Soto (our vulnerable families coordinator), June Bond (our original immigrant task force leader), and Crystal Freemon (organization and communication extraordinaire), as well as Kshijita Toke (our accountant and treasurer), Karissa Sanabria (board member and consistent volunteer), Eve Boger (our at-risk youth task force leader, who seamlessly transitioned into becoming WSJA’s leader during our second year and now co-leader of Wilco Iris), Amy Duncan (our LGBTQ+ task force leader and now vision-caster and co-leader of Wilco Iris), Nikki Ottolini (our racial equality task force leader), Marge Haines (our non-profit paperwork and initial board coordinator), Wanda Graham, Betty Proctor, Mary Barnes, Emily Fengler, Courtenay Rogers, Lisa Smith, Melissa Hall, Hilary Flynn, Vicky McKinney, Margaret Bearss, Howard Garrett, Judy Solan, Kristina Counts, Shannon Seibert, Rena Marron, Mary Lindsay, Greg Walton, and so many others! You all are truly a gift to our community.
I look forward to continuing to serve our community alongside many of you through Wilco Iris and other wonderful organizations (One Willco, Franklin Pride, FJEC, Franktown Open Hearts, Davis House, and others!) in the future! Please follow Wilco Iris on Instagram @wilco_iris and on our website www.wilcoiris.org.
Founder of WSJA
Click HERE to download or print a PDF version of this letter.