UPLIFT OUTREACH CENTER — May 6, 2019 Spartanburg SC

On Saturday, May 4th, a fundraiser was held at 1881 Event Hall in Spartanburg, SC to benefit the newly announced Uplift Outreach Center. The Uplift Outreach Center is the first LGBTQ outreach center in Upstate South Carolina. The center is currently in the process of obtaining their 501c3 status. The evening included a silent auction, appetizers, music by the Synergy Twins, and dancing. In addition, the event featured a video featuring local LGBTQ citizens speaking about their life experiences and the impact that an outreach center can make on young people.

PFLAG Spartanburg President, Debra Foreman, and Vice President, Eric Nolley made the center a priority this past year in response to a need for more safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.

“Our Spartanburg chapter has recognized the need for more safe spaces and resources for members of the LGBTQ+ community. We are very excited about raising funds for the outreach center which will provide mental health needs, std/HIV testing, clothing, food, recreation and most importantly, a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and adults.”

A 2017 study entitled “EXPLORING THE NEEDS & ASSETS OF THE LGBTQ COMMUNITY IN UPSTATE, SC” found that nearly half of the LGBTQ respondents in Upstate South Carolina felt like outcasts at school and/or were alienated by family, leaving them few places to find help and support. According to the American Psychological Association, “LGBTQ youth have higher rates of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts”. This community also faces higher rates of discrimination, health risks, and economic challenges as well as being at a higher risk of experiencing homelessness and substance abuse.

While resources in the Upstate are beginning to grow in response to this need, a safe place for LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness or who are in need of a safe place to express themselves and find support does not yet exist. The goal of this outreach center is to fill that gap and eventually become a hub for the LGBTQ community to find mental wellness and health resources specific to their needs.

It was announced at the Rainbow Ball that the first phase of the newly named “Uplift Outreach Center” will be housed at Fernwood Baptist Church at Hillcrest on the east side of Spartanburg. The interim pastor, Eric Coleman, offered space at the church to PFLAG Spartanburg upon hearing of their need for a youth center. The church members have expressed their desire to be a welcoming church and have begun the process of becoming affirming as well.

“By reaching out to our community we are simply living more fully into our vision statement: “To be Christ to each other and our community – doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.” When our Facility Use Committee and I learned that no safe space existed for LGBTQ+ youth in our community we were deeply saddened and moved with compassion to provide space for the vulnerable in our community.” says Eric Coleman, interim Pastor at Fernwood Baptist Church.

A tentative date of August 1st, 2019 has been announced for the outreach center’s open house. The center is separate from the church with its own entrance, restrooms, and gathering spaces. This includes a kitchen, foosball, pool table and other areas where youth can come to find support, do homework and participate in after-school socialization in a safe, welcoming space.

Uplift Outreach Center is currently in need of volunteers to work at the center and supervise activities one day per week from 3:00 pm – 7:00 pm.

Ongoing funding for the center will be imperative to pay rent, provide snacks, activities and other resources for youth. The center hopes to be able to expand and secure its own permanent location within the next five years to better serve the LGBTQ youth and adult communities. The mission of the outreach center is to provide a central location for mental health providers and other organizations serving LGBTQ individuals to better reach the Upstate community.

For more information regarding the Uplift Outreach Center, please contact PFLAG Spartanburg President, Deb Foreman at 864-381-8187 or email debf@pflagspartanburg.org.

Donations for the outreach center can be given at PFLAGSpartanburg.org.

More information about PFLAG Spartanburg can be found at their website at PFLAGSpartanburg.org.

You can also follow PFLAG Spartanburg on Facebook for more information about upcoming events and progress about the Uplift Outreach Center.