Upstate’s first LGBTQ youth center opens in Spartanburg

State - Regional

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – The Upstate’s first LGBTQ outreach center for teenagers and young adults was unveiled on Thursday.

The Spartanburg chapter of Parents and Family of Lesbian and Gays, or PFLAG, held an open house for the community center.

PFLAG president Deb Foreman says the interim pastor of Fernwood Baptist Church offered the group a space for the LGBTQ youth center. The church and PFLAG hope the center becomes a safe place for everyone to be themselves.

Allison Smith, 14, identifies as LGBTQ. She says she doesn’t always feel comfortable being her true self.

“I feel like it’s kind of difficult because there are so many people who see things differently and you don’t want to be judged. So you kind of just put on a face fake,” Smith told WBTW’s sister station WSPA 7News.

On Thursday afternoon, the teen and her family checked out the new Uplift Outreach Youth Center in Spartanburg. It’s the Upstate’s first center for young members of the LGBTQ community.

While a fundraiser is underway to build a facility, Fernwood Baptist is letting the group use the church’s activity hall.

“A lot of Baptist churches would not be open to partnering with a group like this, but at Fernwood [Baptist Church] we like to say we are a different kind of Baptist Church,” said Pastor Matthew Johnson. “This is the kind of church where people are welcomed and we want to support people in the LGBTQ community.”

PFLAG came up with the idea for the youth center in hopes of offering LGBTQ young people a judgment-free zone.

“There really are no safe places for LGBTQ youths,” Foreman told 7News. “If you can offer them a safe place, somewhere for them to go, just a listening support for adults… it makes a huge difference.”

It didn’t take long for Smith to feel right at home playing games, eating food and connecting with others.

“It’s hard for a lot of people to know that there are people out there like them,” she said. “I think places like this really help out.”

The youth center will be open twice a week starting August 27 at Fernwood Baptist Church located at 200 Fernwood Drive.

The center will be open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

PFLAG is searching for volunteers that can supervise the teens while they are at the center. Volunteers must pass a SLED check.

PFLAG hopes to raise enough money to build a facility in the next 5 years.

Donations for the PFLAG LGBTQ youth center can be sent to:

PFLAG Spartanburg

PO BOX 7056

Spartanburg SC 29304

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