Holland Community Center to Increase LGBTQ Visibility

BY JIM LARKIN

The irony wasn't lost on leaders of the newly formed Out On The Lakeshore. As the organization, which combines Holland is Ready and Holland PRIDE, began looking for a space for its LGBTQ community center it experienced the same type of discrimination that some members of the Holland City Council - in defending their rejection of an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ people - swore didn't exist in Holland.

"It was difficult to find an organization that would rent to an LGBT organization. We had doors that were closed," said Jen Adams, an OOTL board member. "The resistance we received solidified the importance of what we were trying to do."

What OOTL is trying to do, in opening the community center at 451 Columbia Ave. this month, is provide a central, safe place for LGBTQ youth and adults to gather in Holland. The approximate 1,000-square-foot location is envisioned to be a space where LGBTQ people can find support, plan programs, or simply gather with other like-minded people.

"Holland needs a physical presence that's central and visible - a means by which groups and individuals can come together for support and advocacy," said Adams. "LGBTQ youth and adults need a safe space they can come. We need a community center to raise awareness of LGBTQ issues and concerns."

OOTL board member Amy Bade describes it as a "hangout" or "drop-in center" as well as a headquarters for LGBTQ issues to be addressed. When it opens in late May, it will have computers youth and adults can use, and chairs and tables - provided courtesy of Herman Miller - where people can gather and/or meet to plan LGBTQ-focused activities.

Plans call for an executive director to be hired to run the center. Funding for the effort is being provided by grants, organizations and fundraisers.

One of those fundraisers will be held at 3 p.m. May 21 at Saugatuck Center for the Arts, when an Ann Arbor theater group will present "As We Go On," which features a variety of coming out stories.

Tickets for the joint fundraiser with the Grand Rapids Foundation LGBT Fund are $40 each or $15 for students and are available at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, www.sc4a.org.

An additional large fundraiser is the Holland PRIDE Festival on June 23-25. This year's celebration will include a June 23 murder mystery dinner at the Holland Area Arts Council. Tickets, for $50 which includes dinner and drinks, are available by emailing mihollandpride@yahoo.com. For more details go to www.hollandpride.org.

Some individuals and businesses are also joining the effort. Comedian Mimi Gonzalez will present the second annual "Go Girl" event on June 2-4 at The Dunes Resort in Saugatuck, with part of the proceeds from the events - including a champagne breakfast that Sunday morning at Campit Outdoor Resort - going to the OOTL community center. Also featured that weekend will be DJs, music, comedy, and an open mic. For details go to www.gogirl.saugatuck.com.

OOTL was formed in the fall of 2015 by leaders of Holland is Ready and Holland PRIDE, who wanted to unify efforts so they weren't both going to the same businesses and organizations for funding. The nonprofit also provides a central source to provide constant support and understanding for the LGBTQ community of the Greater Holland area.

"We've had support (for the LGBTQ community) in the past, but it hasn't been consistent enough or visible enough," said Adams. "This allows us to provide a consistent level of support on the lakeshore."

For more information on OOTL and the community center, email outonthelakeshore@gmail.com or go to www.outonthelakeshore.org.


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