LGBTQ Non-Profits Get Retail Advertising And A Site, OurTownSF

If you've ever walked by Walgreens at 18th and Castro Street or California Check Cashing at 16th and Market Street, you may have noticed the ever-changing window displays. These displays are part of a local organization's efforts to help increase visibility and spread news on behalf of Bay Area LGBTQ non-profit groups.

The organization, OurTownSF, is a non-profit program of the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation, and works with both Walgreens and California Check Cashing to line up different LGBTQ groups to display in the windows. Hoodline spoke with OurTownSF's Paul Margolis to learn more about the history behind the program and how it has extended with and beyond the windows.

Walgreens Window Space

"In 2009, the Castro Merchants negotiated with Walgreens for the Castro location to offer free advertising space to non-profits," Margolis tells us. "The goal was to give [the non-profits] a space to promote their mission, recruit volunteers, and advertise upcoming events."

Four years later, California Check Cashing joined the program, adding its large window that faces both Market and 16th streets. "Because these windows face such busy streets, we quickly developed a long wait list for groups wanting the use the space," says Margolis, who has handled reservations since 2011.

Due to the increase in interest and limited time allotments for each group to use a window, Margolis came up with an idea. "I felt that it would be more efficient to find non-profits and upcoming events with a website that could promote all the groups at once, in addition to the window spaces." As a result, OurTownSf.org launched in October of 2013.

"The website, now into its second year, aims to better-connect our community," Margolis explains.  "It currently features information on over 275 non-government LGBTQ groups, and has become a search engine for residents and visitors, and a promotional tool for non-profits, arts, and athletic groups." Searches can be filtered by categories and topics for interest-specific results.

The site also boasts a collection of photos and videos from different LGBTQ photographers and groups, as well as a community spotlight and a calendar containing fundraisers, artistic performances, shows, fairs, and annual observances. "We want individuals and community leaders to use this calendar as a guide to community events and other important dates," Margolis says.

OurTownSf.org appears to be gaining popularity and expanding. "OurTownAlt.org was created in February of this year to serve the same needs in Atlanta, and soon there will be an OurTownLA.org serving those in Los Angeles as well," Margolis tells Hoodline.

Locally, Margolis continues to line up LGBTQ groups for the windows and the website. For more information, visit the site or email info [at] ourtownsf [dot] org.

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Lgbtq non profit retail website