LGBTQ Resource Center established as independent nonprofit, launches scholarship

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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GULFPORT, Fla. | The award-winning LGBTQ Resource Center at the Gulfport Public Library announced April 9 that it will now operate as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

The community resource, which previously functioned as a project of the nonprofit Circle of Friends of the Gulfport Public Library, began in 2014 with a donation of hundreds of LGBTQ-themed books. A committee was formed to cultivate the materials and the collection opened to the public in 2015.

It has since grown to include over 5,000 items, offering an extensive variety of LGBTQ-themed print and digital resources. The organization has also evolved to become a year-round provider of programming for the LGBTQ community and its allies, highlighting exhibits, films, guest speakers and performances.

“Circle of Friends has a very local focus,” newly-elected LGBTQ Resource Center Chair Susan Gore explains, “and we grew larger and more widespread in our outreach, just exponentially. Everyone agreed it was a good idea for us to go out on our own.”

Gore notes the LGBTQ Resource Center will continue to work closely with Circle of Friends and library officials, calling them invaluable. “They’ve all been terrific and we wouldn’t be here without them,” she says.

The nonprofit’s founding board is comprised of existing members from the resource center’s committee as well as new additions. Joining Gore as an officer is William Ward as treasurer, with Brittany Baldwin, Patty Callaghan, Daniel Hodge, Nichole Morales, Alison Solomon and Greg Stemm also serving.

Gore says that the resource center’s purpose, to provide a welcoming communal space for the LGBTQ community and to establish a sense of awareness and advocacy, is still critical. “There’s always more to do,” she says. “In the state of Florida you can legally get married on Sunday and fired on Monday … that’s why we need to continue to educate. Our goal is to be available to those who want to be educated.”

That’s evident in the LGBTQ Resource Center’s inaugural LGBTQ+ Scholar Award, currently accepting applicants. The organization is offering a $1,000 scholarship to an LGBTQ student from Gulfport to continue their post-graduate education in college or a trade school program.

Applicants must be at least 16 years old and have had a home address in Gulfport within the last two years to be considered. Applications, which must be received by June 3, are available at the Gulfport Public Library or can be accessed online.

“We’ve been very fortunate,” Gore explains, “and we want to help raise the next generation of queer activists. We’re a community resource.”

For more information about the LGBTQ Resource Center, its upcoming programming or its inaugural scholarship, email LGBTQGulfport@gmail.com or visit MyGulfport.us/LGBTQ-Resources.

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