A new LGBT Community Center near South Grand Boulevard will open to its first visitors on Sunday. The center is housed inside the Pride St. Louis offices at 3738 Chouteau Avenue.
The Center's programs stem from a collaboration of many local organizations: Black Pride, the MTUG transgender group and QTPOC organization of queer and transgender people of color, as well as Pride St. Louis.
Center committee members expect a diverse crowd to attend Sunday’s open house and start using the space to socialize, read, watch TV and enjoy a variety of other activities. Landon Brownfield and Wolf Smith put themselves under the transgender umbrella. Both are 24 years old, but they said the center is designed to draw people of all ages.
“Our committee is made up of people of all identities and spans many generations,” Brownfield said.
‘They can be themselves’
The center is a cavernous room that includes a long table, a meeting area and a library. For the past few weeks, organizers have arranged furniture, put together bookshelves and sorted through hundreds of donated books.
Other donations include boxes of carpet squares from Ameren Missouri, coffee from Coffee Cartel in the Central West End, cases of soda and water from sponsors, and lemonade from a private individual. Organizers are still looking for volunteers — and some help with the bills.
“The thing that we need most is money,” Smith said.
One ongoing expense will be expanded internet and cable TV service — a cost of about $150 dollars a month. Pride St. Louis’ existing internet capabilities can’t handle the kind of crowds they expect in the cyber center, which is set up for people who wouldn’t otherwise have internet access.
“The goal is to help people apply for college, apply for jobs or anything else they need to do using a computer,” Smith said.
The center is also designed as a refuge for LGBT people who are homeless. The center has no living quarters, but people without homes can spend time there during open hours, Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 7 p.m.
Smith and Brownfield believe the facility will be popular because people are already showing up in big numbers for Pride gatherings such as holiday dinners, workshops and support groups.
“I don’t think we’ve seen less than 50 to 60 people at one of these events,” Smith said.
St. Louis' LGBT community has been without an official gathering space since the previous center closed nearly three years ago. Plans to open a new space in Tower Grove South fell through in 2015.
Even in the age of constant communication through social media, it's still important for people to get together face to face, Smith said.
“They can be themselves," Smith said. "They don’t necessarily have to worry about whether people are going to judge them for who they are or who they care about.”
Follow Nancy on Twitter: @NancyFowlerSTL