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New LGBTQ youth drop-in center opening in Joliet

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A new LGBTQ drop-in center is coming to Joliet thanks to efforts by Joliet Pride Network, PFLAG Lockport-Homer Glen and Youth Outlook. The grand opening is April 19.

Joliet Pride Network Outreach Chair Lalania O’Connor said their board had been talking about creating a space for LGBTQ teens and had it as part of a five-year plan. But in December, PFLAG Lockport-Homer Glen reached out to see if Joliet would be interested in partnering. There had been discussions before, but the COVID-19 pandemic put work on hold.

“When I presented the idea of this partnership to the Joliet Pride Network board and told them we could potentially have a LGBTQ+ Youth Drop-in Center opened in a year, they enthusiastically agreed,” said O’Connor.

Joliet’s Spanish Community Center has also become a partner with the use of their space.

“Kenya Ortega  has been our primary contact there,” she said. “The Spanish Community Center has been enthusiastic, accommodating, and a very welcoming part of this partnership.” The center will even have an ASL interpreter available.

O’Connor said the community has rallied to support the drop in center with volunteers getting trained, buying items from the center’s Amazon wish list and talking about how important centers can be for LGBTQ youth.

The space will be available Tuesday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. and is youth driven.

“The youth will have opportunities to develop leadership skills, learn new things, and create a strong community.” O’Connor said.

Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer at the center can apply at the youth-outlook.org website. They can also donate money there and earmark it for the Joliet drop-in center. If they would like to help fund other youth opportunities like the drop-in center and the Youth Queer Prom, they can donate directly to Joliet Pride Network

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