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Skains Steps Down from St. Pete Pride

Eric Skains | St. Pete Pride | Pride Fest

Eric Skains was the festival’s executive director for five years.

ST. PETERSBURG – Eric Skains, who has served as executive director of St. Pete Pride for the past five years, is leaving to pursue new opportunities.

“My five years at St Pete Pride have been extremely fulfilling and always challenging. Retooling and strengthening this organization tested me in ways I never expected,” Skains said. “I have learned and grown enormously through this organization, and I am excited about my future journey. St. Pete will forever be a chapter in my life that I am extremely proud of. I’ve met great people, built amazing connections, and fell in love with a town that’s extremely diverse.”

Development Director Luke Blankenship will act as interim executive director.

During Skains’ tenure, St Pete Pride has become internationally recognized at one of the top Pride events. Since 2013, sponsorship revenue has more than doubled, and Pride weekend revenue consisting of beverage sales, bleachers and merchandise has grown from $24,000 to almost $110,000.

Under Skains’ leadership, St Pete Pride created a new opportunity to assist in funding community organizations: the St Pete Pride Community Grants Program. Since 2014, this program has awarded an average of $10,000 per year to local organizations, in addition to the non-profit beverage program already established.

Scion Crowder, St Pete Pride board president, said, “The board is extremely thankful for the impact Eric has made, not only to the organization, but to the community and city of St. Petersburg, over the past five years. We are grateful for the strong foundation he has built, the respect he has gained the organization, and the battles he has overcome for us.”

Having developed a strong focus on the financial well being of St Pete Pride, Skains has positioned the organization to be financially sound, building financial reserves that did not exist prior to 2013. These reserves enabled the organization to withstand additional security expenses following the Orlando shooting which occurred two weeks before the 2016 St Pete Pride event.

Skains was key in the transition of the organization’s board of directors’ moving from a working board to a governing board, created the organization’s first production committee that works year-round on the planning of St Pete Pride, worked with local officials to receive the region’s first LGBT Pride Month Proclamation from both Tampa and St Petersburg, and expanded the organization’s outreach to include voter registration drives and public awareness initiatives. Since 2013, St Pete Pride received numerous community award achievements such as “Best LGBT organization” from both Watermark Magazine and Creative Loafing readers. In 2017, the nonprofit organization received the highest rating of Platinum from GuideStar, showing the organization meets the highest level of accountability and transparency and is focused on measuring and sharing its progress and results.

“I can’t thank Eric enough for his time and commitment to this organization. We wish him much continued success in his next endeavors,” Crowder said.

Skains issued a farwell statement Wednesday (Aug. 30):

“As you may have heard by now, I have stepped down as executive director of St Pete Pride to pursue a new opportunity. My five years at St Pete Pride have been extremely fulfilling and always challenging. Retooling and strengthening this organization tested me in ways I never expected. I have learned and grown enormously through this organization.

“It has been an absolute honor to work with amazing volunteers, board members, staff, and community leaders during my time here. It is because of them that St Pete Pride has reached so much success, and it will be because of them that this organization will continue to prosper.

“Since 2013, St Pete Pride has become internationally recognized at one of the top Pride events to attend through various publications. The organization has more than doubled in size with an operational budget close to $500,000 today. As the event attendance grew organically, so did its expenses. And we met that challenge each and every year as sponsorship revenue has more than doubled, and Pride weekend revenue of beverage sales, bleachers and merchandise has grown from $24,000 to almost $110,000.

“We were able to position the organization to be financially sound, building financial reserves that did not exist prior to 2013, by focusing on the financial wellbeing of St Pete Pride. These reserves enabled the organization to withstand additional security expenses following the Orlando shooting which occurred two weeks prior to the 2016 St Pete Pride event.

“When I first arrived here, our board of directors came together, surveyed our community, and put together a blueprint for our future. Out of this blueprint came the St Pete Pride Community Grants Program – an opportunity for St Pete Pride to be more than just a single event that has an affect on lives one weekend a year. We have been able to award an average of $10,000 per year to various non-profits throughout Tampa Bay through this program. This funding is in addition to the previously existing Beverage Partner Program, and combined has awarded more than $250,000 since the organization’s founding.

“In the end, we accomplished quite a bit over the past five years. Both readers of Watermark Magazine and Creative Loafing named St Pete Pride Tampa Bay’s “Best LGBT Organization.” We received LGBT Pride Month proclamations from Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Mayor Bill Foster, Mayor Rick Kriseman, the entire city of St. Petersburg City Council, as well as Pinellas County commissioners throughout these years. And just recently, the organization received the highest rating of Platinum from GuideStar, showing the organization meets the highest level of accountability and transparency, and is focused on measuring and sharing its progress and results.

“The St Pete Pride Board of Directors will be working hard over the next few months to find a new director. Until that time, Development Director Luke Blankenship will be the interim executive director. Luke has worked within the organization in many capacities over the past four years and there is no better person to handle this transition.

“Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this journey, and thank you for welcoming me to your community. The city of St. Petersburg is truly a gem that will forever shine in my heart, and the experience here will forever be a chapter in my life that I am extremely proud of. I’ve met great people, built amazing connections, and fell in love with a town that’s extremely diverse.”

For information about St. Pete Pride, go to stpetepride.com.

Photo showing Eric Skains at left courtesy of St. Pete Pride.

Eric Skains | St. Pete Pride | Pride Fest | LGBT Pride Month | Community News | Tampabay News | TB Reporter

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Skains Steps Down from St. Pete Pride
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Skains Steps Down from St. Pete Pride
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Eric Skains was the festival's executive director for five years.
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TB Reporter
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