Making History: Clock, Inc. Creates Welcoming Atmosphere for Local LGBTQ+ Community

It started with a Google search.

Certainly, a lot had happened to lead Chase Norris (he/him) to this moment. He thought of his internship and his success in starting that organization’s first LGBTQ youth group. Yet he also recalled the frustration he felt knowing insurance barriers had prevented certain individuals from participating.

He considered his own experiences as a transgender male navigating health care. He wondered how it could be better and safer for future generations—for the queer youth he worked with every week.

These reflections brought him to this moment, fingers tapping against the keys as he entered five lifechanging, history-creating words into the Google search bar:

“How to start a non-profit.”

Your Time. Your Place. Your Move.

The support system Norris envisioned was beyond necessary, especially for the area’s LGBTQ youth. According to The Trevor Project, one LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13–24 attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the U.S. Connecting socially with other LGBTQ+ youth at a place like Clock could very well save lives.

So Norris got to work, meeting with his peers and supporters in his living room. By March 2019, Clock officially opened its doors.

“When we first got to the first place it was one big, open room,” said Clock Board President Becky Castaneda (she/her). She says the city of Rock Island offered financial assistance to create private counseling spaces.

The community rallied around Clock, whether through making donations or attending events.

“Clock, Inc is just what we needed in the Quad Cities,” wrote one reviewer on Google. “I wish there was something like this in every community honestly. The love and support, the knowledge gained, the community building programs, and charity events are so inspiring.”

Megan Mauer (she/her), Clock’s Chief Operating Officer, looks back on those early days with great nostalgia and joy.

“People will send me screenshots of, ‘Oh we just picked up our keys for our first place a year ago or two years ago!’ It’s insane to think about how far we’ve come and how much has changed.”

Clock’s growth eventually created the need for more space. By March 2021, Clock moved to its new center at 4102 46th Ave. in Rock Island.

“We’re going form 1200 square feet to 4800,” Mauer said. “Bigger space means we can accommodate more people while branching out to offer more services. We like to say that we will try whatever the community needs. We’ll always try to make it happen.”

Clock’s expanded space allows for additional activities including a transgender clothing swap, larger youth rooms, space for workshops, and more.

And Then Came COVID

Non-profits across the country were left scrambling in March 2020 when COVID-19 lockdowns first hit the United States. Like others, Clock had to revamp how it offered support services.

“Our board meetings lasted for hours just because we were like what do we do?” Castaneda said. “Especially because so much of what we do in mental health is based on the physical support system you have with other people. Sure, everyone can text each other and say how’s it going. But to actually be with someone who’s going through what you’re going through is a whole different ballgame.”

Nevertheless, Clock moved the bulk of its services to virtual platforms. While it couldn’t perfectly replace the in-person socialization so many of its members relied on, it was better than nothing.

Fundraising, too, got a little complicated.

“So many events had to be cancelled,” said Jane Tiedge, Social Chair at Clock. “Not just for us, but for everybody. And virtual fundraising can be tough.”

But because Clock relies heavily on donations to continue operating, fundraising simply couldn’t stop. The team got creative, hosting virtual trivia nights and other activities to help folks connect while keeping the doors open.

“We wanted to do events without duplicating what everyone else was doing,” Norris said.

Sharing Local Pride

Clock's Telethon
Clock will host its second live telethon on Sunday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

In response to the pandemic, Clock hosted its first virtual telethon, mixing performances with opportunities to donate. It was successful enough that a second telethon is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.

Clock has partnered with WQAD Channel 8 to help produce and stream the event.

“Last year we did it all by ourselves,” Castaneda said. “Now this year we’ve partnered with Channel 8. It will be different and easier for us.”

This year’s theme is, “The Time Is Now: Local Pride.” Castaneda said Clock is working with local businesses impacted by the pandemic to share their message with a captive audience.

“It’s been really fun to see the list of businesses come together.”

A handful of bars are also getting involved with the telethon, Castaneda said, by hosting a “battle of the bars.”

“The bar that raises the most money will win a pizza party. Last year we had a couple bars, but this year we’re up to five!”

And if Clock is lucky, mesmerized viewers just might see Chase Norris shave off his manbun. The catch: the telethon must raise $100,000.

“Obviously, Chase is simultaneously hoping that we get to $100,000 while still somehow keeping his hair,” Castaneda said. “I hope it happens. I’ll definitely have my chance with the clippers!”

Here to Stay

As Clock looks to the future, it does so with a clear focus on serving the local LGBTQ+ community. By providing a safe space for LGBTQ+ people to meet and find support, Clock has undoubtedly saved lives.

And the need is evident. When Clock first opened in 2019, its youth support group had an average attendance of five people. Now, it’s 30.

To learn more about Clock’s services, its upcoming telethon, or how you can provide support, visit www.clockinc.org.

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