A new community center has plans to set up in the downtown area to focus on building and creating a positive social change in the region.
The Pride Community Center of the Tri-Cities has been an idea in the works since February, and it hopes to serve as somewhat of a resource center for those of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Kenn Lyon, executive director for the community center, said he started brainstorming about the center during a seminar he attended for his master’s program on mental health counseling.
“We had a seminar on creating social change in your local environment, your local neighborhood, and I was thinking about how there was such a need for some kind of positive visible presence for the LGBT community in the Tri-Cities area and there’s nothing here for that,” Lyon said.
Pulling from his network of friends, Lyon brought on John Baker, the vice director and treasurer of the center, and others from the community to form a board of people committed to seeing a functioning center for everyone downtown to utilize.
“It’s about empowering, nurturing and being inclusive of the gay and lesbian community. Everyone is welcome to use the space and to come in,” Lyon said. “It’s also about education because there’s such a need in the area for educating what to do when people start to come out and recognize they have a different orientation than heterosexual and where do they go with that and what’s the next step in that process.”
Both Lyon and Baker said they are hopeful that the center, while open to anyone, will be a safe, positive environment where kids to adults, unsure of their sexuality, can find answers to their questions.
“This is a glorious area and people are very accepting to some extent, but we just need to make sure that the education is out there to broaden their horizons,” Baker said.
Baker said so far he’s heard nothing but positive feedback about the center potentially opening up in the community and has even sought out support from local churches with some of their community center goals.
“We also are working with local churches and groups that also want to volunteer in their outreach programs to help staff if for us,” he said.
Baker and Lyon said while the center is available for anyone looking for support and involvement, they want the community to be one with the center and to be willing to help out for those who are distressed or need assistance.
“It’s a community center because the community is what needs to support this,” Lyon said. “We’ll be the leaders in it, however, it functions by the community participating.”
With other fundraising events in the works, Lyon and Baker said they hope to continue to hear words of encouragement and would ideally like to be up and running by the fall.
Working to gain a nonprofit status with the IRS and the state, the board members have been collecting private donations for the center, as well as having fundraising events.
“We need $17,000 to get it up and running and then we can start getting grants and foundation support after that to continue the process,” Lyon said.
On Friday, Two Pence Productions, a local theater company in Johnson City, will host a community center fundraiser at The Casbah, located at 807 W. Walnut St. Baker and Lyon said the event will have a variety of live entertainment, including skits and comedic performances.
A $5 minimum and up donation will be collected at the door and all proceeds will go toward the center.
“Our diversity is actually our strength. It’s not about all being the same, it’s about embracing that diversity and using that to move the consciousness forward in the entire area,” Lyon said.
To learn more about the community center’s mission statement, vision and values, visit www.pridetricities.com or www.facebook.com/pridetricities to stay in touch on community center updates. For other information, email pridetricities [at] gmail.com or call Lyon at 323-620-4335.