One of the founding board members of Out On The Lakeshore LGBTQ community center has resigned to spend more time with family and friends. Karen Prins, who was one of the initial board members for OOTL when it was founded in 2015, does not yet have a replacement.
“I have reached the great age of 70, and don’t mind saying so, and I would like to chill out more and spend more time with family and friends, all who live not just locally but across the country as well,” Prins said. “I love to travel.”
And as active as Prins is within the LGBTQ community, traveling might be made difficult. She is an active member of the Holland/Lakeshore PFLAG chapter; was one of the initiators and initial facilitators for a transgender support group in Holland that is now known as Gender SAFE; has helped plan and put on the first outdoor PRIDE Festival; and is a former Holland Is Ready board member.
Though she had no plans to be as active local LGBTQ causes when she moved back to Holland in 2008 to take care of her ill mother, she attended a local Holland/Lakeshore PFLAG meeting in 2009 and everything changed.
“I was fortunate to attend my first PFLAG support meeting in 2009. My whole existence in Holland, as a lesbian, took its positive trajectory from that point because of the support and care I experienced in this group for all LGBTQ individuals,” Prins said. “I consider PFLAG Holland/Lakeshore to be Holland’s crown jewel.”
She said that that connection was what helped her network and find other worthwhile causes like social justice and equal rights.
“Then, Rev. Jen Adams spearheaded a new organization in January 2010, called Holland Is Ready,” she said. “Wow. Good things continued to happen.”
Prins, along with PFLAG Holland/Lakeshore facilitator Mary DeRidder and Jim Larkin, who was a member of both PFLAG and Holland Is Ready, spurred efforts to hold an outside pride festival in Holland to make the LGBTQ more visible. Eventually, the first festival was held outdoors in 2013 in Centennial Park.
“These Pride events that PFLAG sponsored through the years, were held inside, at a church, or in the Park Theatre. They were a great show of support for the LGBTQ Community, for a night, every June, but they were less visible than the usual festivals planned in other towns and cities,” Prins said.
But her proudest moment, she noted, was helping to open an LGBTQ Community Center in Holland that opened in 2017.
“It has been wonderful to experience the support we have found for Holland’s first-ever LGBTQ Community Center,” she said. “It’s hard to express. We all know of Michigan’s conservative west coast. However, Out On The Lakeshore, since its beginnings as a concept, in 2015 always seemed to go forward with support from places we never dreamed would be as supportive as they are.”
She added that over the years she served her community, she’s felt the determination to push forward with LGBTQ causes in “many, many folks.”
“[Who] wanted to give love and acceptance to Holland’s LGBTQ Community, that simply has made any ‘No’ turn somehow into a ‘Yes,’” she said. “Wow. Go Holland.”
Jim Larking has been a longtime colleague of Prins’. For more information on the OOTL Community Center, located at 451 Columbia Ave. in Holland, and its programs go to outonthelakeshore.org and Facebook.com/outonthelakeshore.