• The Rev. Dr. Margaret Shepard

After being destroyed by Hurricane Michael, the LGBTQ Center at St. Andrew's reopens its doors


Above: The destruction of Room 6 after Hurricane Michael barreled through Bay County, Florida. Photo credit: Margaret Shepard

In October of 2018, the destruction caused by Hurricane Michael shut down Room 6, a space created by the LGBTQ Center of Bay County on the campus of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. Then, on a beautiful Saturday in March, the community reunited with the grand reopening. "We've been, since the storm, rebuilding our Room 6, which is where all of our support groups [gather]," said the president of the LGBTQ Center of Bay County, Cindy Wilker.

The purpose Room 6 is to provide a “safe place” where diversity is celebrated, and all people are respected, valued and affirmed, inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. ”We do focus on kids that are 13-18 [years old], for the most part, but we have support groups for every age and really for every interest," said Wilker. "It's really special to have these things, and I'm glad that I'm a part of it," said Anthony Allen, a member of the LGBTQ community.

Now that the center is back open, weekly meetings will be held once again.

"We want to make sure that everybody feels comfortable and they understand that we are a safe space because when you come into Room 6, we are here to help you," said the secretary of the LGBTQ Center of Bay County, Cherie Crim. Another goal of the Center is to teach people about the LGBTQ community and create an equal world for them.

"We face discrimination every day in Bay County. We have people who are fired, people who are asked to leave their homes, and people who are denied accommodation, every day. We can't have that anymore," said Wilker. So Wilker says the LGBTQ Center of Bay County has a plan. "We are all in a bad circumstance since Hurricane Michael, but we can grow together, and we can build a better Bay County and a better Panama City together. And that's what we're gonna do. In the end, it’s all about love. Love is love is love." said Wilker.

During the grand reopening ceremony, an anonymous donor gave $10,000 to the Center.


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