Metro Wellness and Community Centers relaunches LGBTQ Welcome Center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ST. PETERSBURG | Community leaders and advocates gathered at Metro Wellness and Community Centers’ LGBTQ Welcome Center to officially relaunch the organization’s LGBTQ safe haven Oct. 6.

The welcome center, a renovated home located in the Grand Central District, has served Tampa Bay’s LGBTQ community since its opening in 2014. Through its weekly programming, the majority of which Metro Wellness provides at no cost, it offers a gathering space for LGBTQ community members of all ages.Operational support is provided by individuals, families and businesses. Regular features include LGBTQ networking, cultural activities and discussions with community leaders.

Celebrants filled the center for its official relaunch, held during the second annual Come OUT St. Pete. The gathering was spearheaded by Metro Wellness CEO Lorraine Langlois and LGBTQ Welcome Center Marketing Manager Jim Nixon, who also serves as the city’s LGBTQ liaison. They were joined by St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Dr. Kanika Tomalin,

Congressman Charlie Crist and Florida House candidate Jennifer Webb.

“About six months ago, Lorraine and I met about ways we could work together as the LGBTQ liaison and with my role at Metro,” Nixon said. “Part of that was my vision of redoing the welcome center.”

“Thank you so much, Jim, for making this relaunch happen,” Langlois followed, “I really appreciate this house. It started out with a visitors’ center and quickly turned into a place where kids needed to come. I’m really so proud of the work that we’re doing.”

The center will serve as a resource for LGBTQ tourists interested in learning about the area. Nixon advised that Metro Wellness worked to find a balance between maintaining its quality programming and making the venture financially stable.

That led to the inclusion of its newly-launched store, which features original work from local LGBTQ artists. Guests can also enjoy area favorites like Working Cow ice cream and Kahwa Coffee. “We hope this is a place for all of you to come spend an afternoon,” Nixon said.

Webb stressed the center’s importance to attendees. “When I am elected I will be the first openly gay woman in the history of Florida elected to the state legislature,” she said.

“That’s because of spaces like these that kept me safe and that held me in community when my family wasn’t accepting of who I was. These are absolutely essential places to make sure that we all rally around.”

Tomalin thanked Metro Wellness for its commitment to St. Petersburg. “At City Hall we have been so excited for this day and every day that will follow,” she said, “because the wonderful healing work and hospitality that will unfold under this roof is one of the most important things happening in our city.

“We stand here with you, not only this day; every day,” she continued, “to be a welcoming beacon of light to everyone fortunate enough to come to our community to visit or who are even more fortunate to call it home.”

“San Francisco has nothing on St. Petersburg,” Rep. Charlie Crist added, “that’s saying a lot, and I mean it. I’m very honored to represent you in Washington. I can only hope that the rest of the nation is as kind and as good as St. Petersburg, Florida.”

The LGBTQ Welcome Center is located at 2227 Central Ave. For more information, call 727-201-4925 or visit LGBTQWelcomeCenter.org.

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