In southeast Ohio, the Ohio University LGBT Center is the only resource available for those who need it, but that may change soon. Monday night at 7 p.m. at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, there was a meeting for the planning of the Southeast Ohio LGBTQ+ Center.
Mike Straw, the board president of the center, led the meeting and discussion. The new center is working alongside the OU LGBT Center, and delfin bautista, the director of the center, is assisting in the planning.
“Together both centers will be able to better serve the community,” Straw said.
The center has started a GoFundMe campaign to help raise the capital needed, with an initial goal of $600.
“We are looking for funds to try to get a facility and staffing,” Straw said during the meeting.
Lia Knox, the secretary of the board and volunteer coordinator, said she met Straw at the Columbus Pride Festival and Parade and when he brought the idea up to her she was “on board.”
After explaining the idea of the center, and some of its goals, Straw encouraged those in attendance to get together in groups to brainstorm ideas for the center. Straw asked two questions for the attendees to consider: what the needs are of the LGBTQ+ populations in southeast Ohio, and what resources are required to meet those needs.
Before opening discussion, Straw reminded everyone to be respectful.
“Keep this a safe space, respect each other,” Straw said. “There’s nobody that’s not welcome.”
The open discussion lasted about 20 minutes, and afterwards Straw opened the floor to those who wanted to contribute.
Those who shared expressed a need for resources for people who are transgender, families and others who are LGBTQ+. Other ideas included the need for a safe place for those in the community and a place to be social with others.
Some attendants noted that support groups, mental health support and medical resources are needed.
“Trying to find care is hard, it’s very limited,” Knox, said. “In the trans community in all of southeast Ohio, there is one doctor that gives hormone replacement therapy.”
It was made clear during the meeting that this center is not just for Athens, but for everyone in southeast Ohio.
“Southeast Ohio is a big region,” Straw said. “We’re going to need the whole community to help.”
Liz Hammer, the treasurer and head of the formation committee, got involved in the planning of the center as an ally who wanted to help.
“I’m an accountant,” Hammer said. “I have the ability to help with the 501(c)(3) and help get the finances started.”
A 501(c)(3) allows tax exemption for nonprofit organizations.
Hammer said that having accessibility outside of Athens is important, and she feels like there are not as many resources in the rural areas.
“We want to make sure we’re meeting everyone’s needs that we can,” Straw said. “Spread the word and let people know that we’re coming.”