The sun is shining on Iridian Moon

LGBTQ+ resource center awarded microgrant

By Kira Doman

Iridian Moon receives micro grant

A sense of belonging. Understanding. Support. Connection.

These are just a few takeaways Iridian Moon, a free drop-in resource center located on Green Bay’s east side, offers area LGBTQ+ high school students.

Founded in April 2021 by  Jesse Villwock, who co-owns The Artymestic where Iridian Moon is housed, the resource center’s mission focuses “on uplifting and healing our community in a safespace, without shame.”

“There’s no agenda,” she said. “They come in, they read a book, they do homework, they nap, they grab a soda or whatever they want to do. When I have teens here – they have a safe space. I never got to have that in high school, or even college and young adult years… I have those times I get to check in with them, and although they feel special because they have someone, I feel very seen and connected to them. I feel the gifts that I numbed and the ways in which I knew I can shine and can serve, they get to be used all the time now.”

Villwock said along with providing a safe area to connect with others facing similar experiences, the center educates teens on healthy relationships, sexually transmitted infections prevention, consent issues, self-advocacy and building confidence.

Iridian Moon is open on Mondays as a resource center,

“Every day since I’ve opened both of these organizations (The Artymestic and Iridian Moon),” Villwock said. “I feel intentional. I feel connected. I feel seen, and it’s incredible to see that come back for the people I get to serve.”

SOUP grant

Surviving the COVID-19 pandemic has proven challenging for small businesses – each doing their best to survive.

Organizations, like Current Young Professionals (CYP), a branch of the Greater Green Bay Chamber geared toward attracting and retaining young professionals in the area, have been a lifeline for small businesses looking to grow their foothold in the community.

Villwock said the helping hand extended by CYP was a welcome blessing.

In November, CYP awarded Iridian Moon with a microgrant of $2,039 through its SOUP (Support Of Urban Projects) microgrant program.

The event is part of a dinner series where attendees listen to grant proposals, then vote for one project to receive proceeds from the $10 ticket sales and donations.

“We give out microgrants twice a year, one in fall and another in May for the greater Green Bay area,” CYP Program Director Christine Gunderson said. “We have two small sponsors who help us to bolster how much money we bring into the event. Every dollar that comes into the event – registration fees, sponsorships, everything – is made into the microgrant.”

Everyone in attendance gets to vote on which organization or project has earned the microgrant.

“It’s really about making sure people who are doing great work in the community are given a platform to share what that is, and then people in the community, who want to invest in the good work people are doing, have an avenue to do that as well,” Gunderson said.

Villwock said, for her, the event was fruitful – in both grant funds and connections made.

“Attending the SOUP event, not only was I super thankful for the microgrant, but also the connections I made at the event were really what paid off,” she said.

Thanks to the micro grant funds, Villwock said she was able to put together holiday baskets for the teen attendees of Iridian Moon.

She said the baskets included essentials, such as toothpaste, deodorant and soap, but also gift cards to local businesses, gas station gift cards and handknit hats.

Gunderson said the gift baskets handed out through Iridian Mood highlights the impact micro grant funds have on the community.

“The event isn’t only about giving out the money, but also showcasing the big projects people are bringing to the table.” she said. “While Iridian Moon is who won, there are still three other projects, and having them in front of a room of 96 people to share what they’re doing, what they need help with and why they need this money, is a lot of visibility.”

Villwock said the funds have also afforded the resource center the ability to invite guest educators in.

“Now, with the funds, I feel confident and okay asking people to come in and educate, because there can be one, a lunch provided and two, some compensation to them for their time,” Villwock said.

Beginning in March, Villwock plans to host a photography class led by Allysa Lentz, an area body-positive photographer and member of the LBGTQ+ community.

During the four-week class, Lentz will demonstrate how to build a shoot appreciating the human body, what to look for before the shoot and bring in her old photography equipment for the participants to use.

Loving the Skin I’m In, a local nonprofit geared toward empowering African American, Black and biracial girls in Northeast Wisconsin, and soon-to-be neighbor of The Artymestic, was the other 2021 recipient of SOUP micro grant funds.

Kira Doman is an editor and freelance journalist who graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay in the Spring of 2021. Her editing work can be found in The Sheepshead Review, The Northern Lights and Ellis Clark’s 2020 novel “With You.” Her writings can be viewed in The Driftwood and Green Bay City Pages. She is passionate about subjects such as social justice, current affairs and the arts. In her spare time, she is a barista, an average yet avid hiker, and a full-time cat mom.

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