BATTLE CREEK –
While many were expecting Battle Creek Pride’s big project to be moving their annual Pride celebration from a picnic in the park to a full-blown downtown celebration, those plans have been put on hold. Instead the group is celebrating two windfalls of generosity and expanding into the first community center and the first Pride House for their community.
The first stroke of luck came when an old Habitat for Humanity house became available in the city. According to Battle Creek Pride President Larry Dillon, the family that had lived there stopped paying on their low-interest mortgage and abandoned the home. The home was left “trashed,” and Habitat for Humanity wanted to find a charity to donate the house to.
“This just fell into our lap,” Dillon said. He and the 13-member Battle Creek Pride Board decided to accept the house, and have been hard at work cleaning it up. As of now it seems their plan is to turn it into temporary housing for LGBT people in need.
“We thought it would make a great community center, but because it’s in a residential area we can’t have meetings there or our offices,” Dillon said. “So now we are looking into what it would take to have it be a Pride House. our dream is that LGBT people will be able to seek shelter there if they have no place to go. For example, if a young person came out to their parents and says, ‘Hey mom and dad, I’m a lesbian,’ and they say ‘we don’t want you in our house,’ then someone refers them to the Battle Creek Pride House. There would be a trained resident there who can give them a bedroom for a couple of days while they figure out where they will go next.
‘Another example is, say there is a gay couple and they break up their partnership. Often one will have control over the resources and the other may leave with nothing. That partner could come here instead of going to a rescue mission where he may not be as welcomed.”
There is still much research and planning that needs to be done before Pride House can blossom into a functioning facility, but having the building donated is a huge first step. The windfall also led to their second big announcement. “When we were giving thought to what to do with a house, we considered having a community center, but we couldn’t in that location,” Dillon said. The articulation of that idea opened up another door for the group, as Father Brian Coleman of St. Thomas Episcopal Church came up with the idea to use the basement of the church as the Battle Creek’s first LGBT Community Center.
For a small monthly rental fee to cover expenses, the “Battle Creek Gay Lesbian Resource Center” will be located at 16 E. Van Buren, with hours yet to be determined. Dillon said the space will be adequate for many social gatherings, office space, testing facilities, rallies, planning meetings, educational functions, board meetings, support groups, Pride Festival Office, and more.
Clean-up has also begun on this space, and members are searching for donations to make the center function. Their wish list includes: Carpet, Curtains, Desk Chairs (2), Desks (2), Conference Table, Couch & Comfortable Chairs, Folding Chairs (20), Coat Rack (holding 30 coats), Pool Table, Coffee table, End Tables (2), Filing Cabinets (2), Floor Lamps (2), Desk Lamp, Ceiling Light Fixtures (6), Storage Cabinet, 6’ Folding Table (2), Waste Baskets (2), Large Trash Receptacle, Large Bulletin Board, Small Bulletin Board, White Board, Large Guest/Sign in Book, Long Partition, Office Cubicles, Movie Screen, Large Flatscreen TV, Refrigerator, Microwave, Magazine Rack, Phone and Answering Machine, Laptops (3).
BATTLE CREEK –