When Helena Cragg and others started organizing the LGBTQ Center of Durham last year, the public began asking one question over and over – “Where is it?”
The group’s board of directors wanted to hold social outings and family-friendly events for the local gay community but didn’t necessarily plan on having a physical location. However, Cragg said new members lobbied for a central gathering place.
“We were pushed to move forward, because people were giving us unsolicited donations and support,” Cragg said.
The LGBTQ, or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer, Center kicked off its formal fundraising campaign on Saturday during the N.C. Pride festival and parade on Duke University’s East Campus. The Durham nonprofit group was one of dozens of vendors that set up during the festival, which is celebrating its 30th year in 2014.
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In recent years, the LGBT Center of Raleigh has played host to most LGBT programming in the Triangle. But at a town hall that the Raleigh center hosted about two years ago, Cragg said she heard a need for more localized services in Durham.
“Durham has so many resources, but if you are new to town, it is really hard to find them,” Cragg said. “That’s one of the things we will be, the starting point to trying to find out where your niche is in this community.”
The Raleigh center provided some startup funds for Cragg and others to get the ball rolling, she said. The group says it needs about $76,000 to afford a two-year lease on a new facility, which will likely be in Durham’s downtown district.
Donations have already started pouring in through a crowd-funding link on the center’s website, www.lgbtqcenterofdurham.org. The center is also hosting an all-day fundraiser on Sunday at Alivia’s Durham Bistro to round out Pride Week.
AnnMarie Sugrim, a volunteer for the Durham center, said a new facility is vital for meetings and social gatherings. Youth groups, HIV testing and women’s groups are three services the center could host.
“Right now, people in Durham, in order to be around a community center, have to travel to Raleigh,” Sugrim said. “This is the only way we can provide services and also have a physical hub in Durham.”
A steering committee will help determine what specific services the center will provide. And starting in 2015, center leaders plan to seek long-term funding support through partnerships with local businesses and grants, Cragg said.
“We want this to be an organization that is flexible and adaptable,” Cragg said.
Tan Truong, another volunteer for the Durham center, said he wants others to feel as welcomed as he did when he moved to the city a few years ago.
“(The center) will be a safe place for people to get together, have resources and have support,” Truong said.
The N.C. Pride festival is the largest event of its kind in the Triangle and draws thousands of attendees from across the state each year.
The Saturday vendor fair, parade and evening parties in Durham are cornerstones of the event, but Pride also includes comedy shows, film screenings and drag shows in Chapel Hill and Raleigh on Thursday and Friday.
Speakers, including several openly gay elected officials, asked festivalgoers throughout the day on Saturday to celebrate progress but never get complacent.
Pride attendees also protested and debated with evangelical preachers set up along the festival and parade corridor. Micaela Iacomo of Garner held up a sign that said “God (Loves) Gays,” next to a preacher who called homosexuality an “abomination.” The preacher declined to give his name.
“I’m not trying to make anyone upset,” Iacomo said. “I just want people to know that they aren’t going to be hated by God, because they are born this way.”
For more information on the festival, go to www.ncpride.org.