CHICAGO (CBS) — A longtime medical care center that has served Chicago’s gay and lesbian community for 36 years is hoping to raise $500,000 in 50 days to avoid shutting its doors.

CBS 2’s Roseanne Tellez reports that a financial crisis could leave thousands of Chicagoans without critical health services.

The Howard Brown Health Center in Uptown serves some 36,000 people each year.

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Opened in the 70’s at another location, the center offers everything from HIV and STD testing and prevention, to medical care and counseling.

“Howard Brown has been a lifeline for 36 years and now we’re here to talk to the community about why we need a lifeline to continue to be here,” president and CEO Jamal Edwards said Thursday.

Why? Because of the mismanagement of $3 million dollars in federal grant funds between 2006 and 2010.

Internal investigations revealed the money was used to cover operating expenses, which led to the firing of two top administrators.

Longtime clients and volunteers like Brett Stortz were devastated by the news.

“Every time I think about Howard Brown, I think of the good things we are doing. To hear about this horrible thing we were doing, it broke my heart,” Stortz said. “Thinking of all the other people that would have nowhere to go, or have to get a new healthcare provider, that’s hard to think about.”

But turning things around won’t be easy or cheap.

“We endeavor to raise $500,000 in 50 days,” said board member Mark Andrews.

Edwards said that with the current economic climate, the center’s services are more important than ever.

“More people have turned to Howard Brown than ever for access to health care,” said Edwards. “So we’ve always been in a difficult place, but this makes things more difficult, but reinforces why we need to be here.”

The new administration has promised big changes to prevent anything like this from happening again. And the new executives – about half as many as before – said they’ll give up their salaries if they have to.