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Aug 10, 2007
V 35 Issue 32

 
 
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Seattle Counseling Service unveils new signs
Seattle Counseling Service unveils new signs
Neon rainbow sign visible from I-5

by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

Were here, were Queer, get used to it. That's the message drivers on Interstate 5 or those driving East on Pine toward Capitol Hill will receive after gazing above at a dazzling new sign atop the three story home of Seattle Counseling Service (SCS), located at 1216 Pine Street in Seatttle. A 17-foot neon rainbow sign with "SCS" written at one side in blue will once again reclaim Capitol Hill as the most recent historical heart of the region's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

"I have been talking about how this is sort of SCS coming out of the closet after 38 years," said Ann McGettigan, Executive Director of SCS. We have been quietly doing our work and never in our history had signage that was so visible. So, this is a very big deal for us."

The neon sign was designed and built by City Lights Neon at a cost of $10,000. A smaller but equally impressive sign, designed by Clinical Director Donnie Goodman, cost $12,000. The smaller sign is in the shape of a triangle, which is backlit and bares the name of the agency. A grant from the Boeing Employees Fund made the signs possible.

It is quite a step for the agency, which provides counseling and chemical dependency treatment services to the LGBT community. "It could, potentially make us a target. That has some people worried, but I think it is absolutely essential that we do it," added McGettigan. "We have always been hidden because it wasn't safe. As time went on and the climate changed, we held on to that mentality. ... The signage is a symbol to our clients, board and staff that we are proud to be LGBT."

Sandy "Sandra" Fosshage, Executive Director of SCS for eight years during the late '70's and early '80's, says she is "blown away" by the progress the agency has made since the end of her tenure in 1985. "When I was the director, back in those years, we didn't identify the agency. We were very low profile," she said. "I would come to work in the morning and erase fag and Queer from the door. Now, we have a sign. It has grown so much."

Today, SCS is a $1.9 million dollar agency with 24 staff serving 1,400 clients annually in a 12,000 square foot facility. The agency, which is the first and oldest community mental health agency for LGBT persons in the United States, will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2009.

Louis Chernin, Executive Director of the Greater Seattle Business Association (GSBA), an LGBT and allied chamber of commerce, also believes the sign will act as a gateway to Capitol Hill and a reminder of the neighborhood's LGBT heritage. "I think this particular location is a connecting location and I think everybody feels very good about it," she says. "It is accessible to those who are downtown, yet, it still maintains its cultural roots on Capitol Hill. ... The GSBA has just relocated up the block ... so, this has become a little triangle. Verbena and Gay City are literally just one block away."

McGettigan agrees. "We were very intentional about what we have as our signs. The rainbow sign's placement is up high," she says. "It is really not about saying this is SCS, the rainbow stripes are an icon. We are saying this is the gateway to the geographic LGBT community. We are pretty excited about that."

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