It is no surprise by now that mostly everyone has had to find one way or another to shift to a virtual setting, including the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center. However, the Center has risen to the challenge and found successful ways to have their online format thrive.
Its mission is to be a “hub for resources, education, community building, advocacy and organizing for more resilient networks,” which hasn’t changed at all throughout the pandemic. This year would have been the first Newburgh Pride Festival, however the Center switched gears and has remained vigilant in being a resource to the community and ensures a variety of ways for community members to come together.
One biweekly event they host is Trans Tumblr, which is a (now virtual) meet-up group for transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary identified people and allies.
“In person, the event was really robust,” said Rae Meiner, executive director of the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center. “People got together, we ate dinner together, watched movies, had conversations – it was a peer to peer space.”
Online, it aimed to foster the same sense of community. However, there has been fluctuation in the attendance so they decided that going into the new year they are revamping this program to make it focus more on mental health. In doing so, they are going to bring a therapist on to speak to those who attend.
“We’re excited for that pivot,” said Meiner.
In time for the holiday season, they are selling holigay boxes, which can be ordered online and are filled with goodies from local queer craftspeople. Boxes begin going out as early as Monday, December 14 and will be shipped out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays until supplies last.
The box comes with a queer pin, a mini philly prideflag, a queer, black and influential postcard set and a small water print, which costs $22 in total. There are a number of add-ons, which prices going up to $35. The cost of the boxes will be used for fundraising the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center, while also giving business to queer, local craftspeople. Orders can be placed up until January 1.
Going into the new year, the Center is also offering a virtual event, Queer for Justice Orientation, on Friday, January 8. The general public is invited to attend this event, where they can learn more about social justice in regards to policies in sectors like housing, incarceration, local budgets and more.
“Anybody who is interested in learning about what the Queer Justice Committee does or learning about policies and research pieces is invited to join,” said Meiner.
More recently, they held an event on Tuesday, December 15 in partnership with Black and Pink, an organization that connects LGBTQ prisoners to allies on the outside, to come together and invite the public to join in on writing letters to those who are incarcerated.
Other events they’ve held include the Abolitionist Study Group, which meets on the first and third Tuesday of the month from 7 to 9 p.m., which sees a large attendance.
Additionally, they have launched a brand new program for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community, named Qomunidad. It is held on the first Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. on Zoom.
Not only has the Center been focusing on their programming, they also have been giving out grants to community members in need. These mini-grants range from $50 to $200 and help residents with basic needs. So far, they have given out 62 grants, most of which were funded at the $200 level. The application is online and is accepted on a rolling basis. It is reviewed by the Center using a rubric on Thursdays and those who have been awarded are contacted afterwards.
On top of their other initiatives, one individual who works for the Center, also sits on the Executive Order 203 Oversight Committee, which allows them to help loop in the rest of the community on what is happening in regards to police reform here in the city.
The Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center is also extremely active on their social media, using it to not only inform people about their own upcoming events, but others like budget hearings and more, and is used to give the community information about different LGBTQ+ information including laws and news articles.
Over the next year, Meiner said they are looking to do more anti-racist work and “hold conversations with folks at the intersection of racism and LGBTQ gender justice.”
If you are interested in helping the Newburgh LGBTQ+ Center, they are accepting donations on their website. For more information, newburgh-center.org or email email@example.com.