Gay Education Awareness and Resources Foundation

in Groups and Organizations

The Gay Education, Awareness, and Resources (GEAR), student organization dedicated to “providing a central information agency” for Cleveland’s unorganized and disparate LGBT+ communities, first formed at Cleveland State University in May 1974. GEAR’s purpose quickly evolved to include “[helping] gay people understand themselves and [helping] them realize their own strengths,” while simultaneously “making the general public better informed about what being gay is.” Art MacDonald, worship coordinator of the Cleveland Fellowship Metropolitan Community Church (Fellowship MCC), played a central role in establishing and organizing what would later become the GEAR Foundation. Michael Madigan, MacDonald’s partner, provided crucial funding for many of GEAR’s early operational ventures and suborganizations. In May 1974, GEAR established its first office in a rented space at 4128 Lorain Avenue. This office space was shared with the Fellowship MCC and Cleveland Gay Political Union.

In 1974, MacDonald and Madigan established GEAR’s Gay Switchboard, a phone-based resource directory and referral service, and High Gear, an LGBT+ community newspaper produced by GEAR. The Gay Switchboard, later renamed the Gay Hotline, “[provided] quick information for callers who [wanted] immediate answers to specific questions – either about being gay in general or about gay activities in the Northern Ohio area.” High Gear, a monthly newspaper “sponsored by GEAR but written and edited by staff of its own,” covered “local gay news” and provided “local gays with a printed outlet for their opinions.” The GEAR Foundation, along with its various suborganizations (including the Gay Switchboard/Hotline and High Gear) were operated entirely by volunteers.

In January 1975, GEAR began holding organizational meetings at St. John’s Episcopal Church (2600 Church Street). Several months later, GEAR members Art MacDonald, Michael Madigan, and Ethan Ericksen incorporated the Gay Education, Awareness, and Resources (GEAR) Foundation as a “nonprofit educational organization” in May 1975. By September 1975, homophobic opposition to GEAR and the Fellowship MCC’s presence at St. John’s Episcopal Church led the church to evict both organizations from its premises. In November 1975, the GEAR Foundation moved out of its former office at 4128 Lorain Avenue and into a new shared office space at 2999 West 29th Street rented from Fellowship MCC. However, after Fellowship MCC relocated its offices from 2999 West 29th Street to Bethany Presbyterian Church (6415 West Clinton Avenue) in early 1976, GEAR and its suborganizations were subsequently forced to operate its services out of various volunteer members’ homes. Additional services, including a Speaker’s Bureau and various social and community-based groups, were added to GEAR’s growing repertoire of services and suborganizations throughout 1976.

Noting the pressing need for a more permanent space within which to house its various organizations and services – including the “High Gear newspaper, the Gay Hotline, gay counseling, rap groups, workshops, and other activities” – the GEAR Foundation began working towards establishing a Gay Community Center in 1976. In addition to providing a “place for gays to meet and socialize” outside of the local bar scene, GEAR’s Community Center was envisioned as a “focal point to establish solidarity among the divergent segments of the gay community, as well as being a medium through which services [could be] rendered to those segments [when] problems [arose].” In March 1977, the GEAR Foundation established its first Gay Community Center in the CoventrYard building, 2795 Euclid Heights Boulevard. Social and community groups, including the Gay Rap Group, Lesbians in GEAR Hanging Together (LIGHT), and the Men’s Action Committee (MAC) later began operating out of GEAR’s newly established Gay Community Center.

After an arson attack destroyed the CoventrYard building in December 1977, the GEAR Foundation was once again forced to temporarily operate out of volunteer members’ homes. Left in dire financial straits, the GEAR Foundation received an outpouring of financial support from local LGBT+ businesses and community members. In April 1978, the GEAR Foundation reopened the Gay Community Center in a rented space on the first floor of 1012 Sumner Court (next to New Dimensions). Fortunately, the GEAR Foundation also achieved its “long standing goal of federal tax exemption” later that same month. The GEAR Foundation remained at 1012 Sumner Court through October 1980. GEAR purchased Bernard Furniture Store building (2641 West 14th Street) in 1980 and relocated the Gay Community Center there through 1982. In 1982, GEAR again relocated the Gay Community Center to 2100 Fulton Road following financial troubles. In 1988, GEAR’s improved financial situation facilitated the movement of the newly-dubbed Lesbian Gay Community Service Center into rented offices at 1418 West 29th Street. The GEAR Foundation subsequently dissolved and reincorporated itself as the Lesbian Gay Community Center of Greater Cleveland.

Additional information coming soon.


  • Barnum, George. “Gay Community.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  • Blessing, Shana R. “Get Into GEAR.” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 1985. Page 13.
  • “Brian DeWitt Interview, 2008.” Cleveland Voices.
  • Callender, Charles. “Interview: Bob Reynolds Ruminates, Reminisces.” Gay People’s Chronicle. May 1985. Page 14.
  • “Cleveland Gay Hotline.” High Gear. December 1979. Page 8.
  • Cummings, Katie. “GEAR Foundation – For The Benefit of Cleveland’s Gay and Lesbian Community.” Cleveland Historical.
  • Davidson, Rowe. “Forum Spurs New Center Search.” High Gear. December 1976. Page 1.
  • DeWitt, Brian. “Center Had Five Stops on the Way to Gordon Square.” Gay People’s Chronicle. May 26, 2000. Page 3.
  • “Editorial.” High Gear. January 1979. Page 8.
  • Fishman, Dinane. “GEAR Faces Financial Crisis.” What She Wants. December 1982. Page 4.
  • “Funding Woes Plague GEAR.” High Gear. April/May 1982.
  • “Gay Switchboard Replaces Hotline.” High Gear. February 1976.
  • “GEAR Foundation Information.” High Gear. August 1981.
  • “GEAR Foundation Moves on Community Center.” High Gear. February 1976.
  • “GEAR Granted Tax-Exemption.” High Gear. May 1978. Page 1.
  • “GEAR Incorporated.” High Gear. June 1975. Page 3.
  • “GEAR Resolution.” High Gear. September 1980. Page 7.
  • Glafagna, Thom David. “A Reply to ‘So What?'” High Gear. September 1980. Page 7.
  • “Hotline Changes.” High Gear. November 1976. Page 2.
  • Howard, Grace. “Lesbian/Gay Community Service Center of Greater Cleveland.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  • Jeanette. “Good Evening, Gay Hotline.” High Gear. November 1981. Page 4.
  • “John Nosek and Leon Stevens Interview, 15 August 2023.” Cleveland Voices.
  • Kawecki, John. “Center Update.” High Gear. October 1977. Page 2.
  • Krause, Marycatherine. “Working Together: Women and Men in GEAR.” What She Wants. December 1981. Page 9.
  • Nosek, John, and Leon Stevens. “Gay Community 1970s.” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  • Nosek, John, and Leon Stevens. “GEAR (The Gay Education Awareness and Resources Foundation).” Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.
  • Pontoni, Martha. “Interview: Shana Blessing.” Gay People’s Chronicle. November 1985. Page 8-9.
  • Raponi, Richard. “CoventrYard.” Cleveland Historical.
  • Schneck, Ken. LGBTQ Cleveland. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2018. Pages 86-90.
  • Skaggs, Donald. “The Need for a Gay Center.” High Gear. January 1977. Page 9.
  • “The GEAR Foundation: What We Are.” High Gear. August 1981. Page 15.
2785 Euclid Heights Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106 (Former Gay Community Center at CoventrYard)

Tell us about Gay Education Awareness and Resources Foundation

Many of the locations documented on Queer Cleveland are not well-documented in the historical record. If you have additional information about Gay Education Awareness and Resources Foundation, please let us know by sharing a memory, correction, or suggestion using the comment form below.

Or send an email to

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *