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Rainbow center hires first African-American ED

by Alex Madison

Kevin McAllister. Photo: Courtesy RCC
Kevin McAllister. Photo: Courtesy RCC  

When Kevin McAllister was growing up in Concord as a young gay man, he didn't have a place to go for support and felt very alone. Now 36, McAllister will be the new executive director of the Rainbow Community Center in Concord and make sure youth like him know there is a place they can go for help.

"I didn't have a place like the Rainbow center when I was coming out," McAllister, who will be the center's first African-American executive director, said. "I want to make sure young people don't experience being alone when they come out and are connected to a center like Rainbow that's affirming, open, caring, and wonderful."

McAllister's first day on the job will be June 11. He will replace Philip Arca, the current interim executive director who took over when longtime executive director Ben-David Barr, Ph.D., retired last December after 10 years due to health reasons.

The first order of business for McAllister will be understanding the community and its needs. RCC has served the LGBT community of all ages in Contra Costa County since 1996. It offers counseling services, HIV testing and PrEP, mental health services, addiction recovery support groups, and has a food pantry. Last summer RCC opened a thrift store in El Cerrito, its first presence in the western portion of the county.

McAllister hopes to deepen RCC's services and expand them to the West County by increasing awareness, diversifying funding, and building partnerships. His salary at RCC will be $93,000, and the center has an annual budget of $1.2 million.

"I want to make sure folks across the county have access to the wonderful services at the Rainbow center," he said. "I'm really looking forward to increasing the visibility of RCC and making connections with individuals, city and local officials, and community partners."

For the past 20 years, McAllister has worked with youth and families, advocating and providing services to victims of sexual assault, elder and child abuse, and domestic abuse. He's finishing up his job as executive director of the California Coalition for Youth, which he's been with for about a year and a half. At the statewide coalition that provides critical support to California's homeless youth, McAllister made great strides, particularly in fundraising.

Under McAllister's leadership, the coalition secured $10 million to support housing and shelter services, access to food, counseling, and numerous other outreach services in counties with the highest number of youth experiencing homelessness in the state, according to a news release from RCC.

As LGBT youth are disproportionately affected by homelessness, something McAllister highlighted, he will focus on expanding youth services at RCC.

"I am coming in with that knowledge and that approach and I will look at what the needs are and how the center can provide additional services not only to young LGBT, but to all LGBT," he said.

McAllister was also the director of operations at Beyond Emancipation, helping youth in the foster care system achieve success in housing, education, and employment.

His motivation to hit the ground running is something Ken Carlson, president of the board of directors at RCC and a Pleasant Hill City Councilman, is excited about. Carlson said with Barr's retirement comes an opportunity for change and that McAllister's roots in Concord, ability to connect with people, and fundraising skills will be an asset to RCC.

"I can't put into words how excited I am to have him," Carlson said. "He's very active with stakeholders, funding, and exposure. With his energy and enthusiasm, he's going to go at it, and we are excited to bring that with us."

Arca, a straight ally, also commented about McAllister joining the team.

"He shares our passion for honoring all of our unique identities and preferences, while concurrently supporting our most vulnerable community members and strengthening our networks with allies," Arca wrote in an email to the B.A.R. "He will bring a unique combination of high level thinking, on the ground implementation skills, and a sincere, empathetic, passionate energy to our team and work."

Carlson announced McAllister's new role at Concord's Pride celebration June 2. The rainbow flag was raised in front of City Hall at Civic Center Plaza, where it will remain all month, a first for Concord.

As for McAllister, he said he is stepping into his dream job and can't wait to get started.

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