It’s been “a long time coming” but Savannah’s LGBT community finally has a space to call its own with the opening of the city’s first LGBT center.
The new facility at 1515 Bull St. opened its doors to the public Thursday evening as part of an effort to bridge gaps in the Savannah community by First City Network, Georgia’s oldest LGBT organization.
The private nonprofit community service organization is dedicated to enhancing and sustaining the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and their allies by providing educational, social, and health-related activities, programs and services, said FCN chairman Michael Ploski.
“This has been 32 years in the making,” said Michael Ploski, FCN chairman. “From idea to being here, it’s been a long time. But it’s amazing and it’s been a big community effort. Our volunteers worked very hard.”
Under sunshine and 89-degree weather, people crowded the new center Thursday to sip on treats, tour the facility and enjoy live music.
“Rather than have a typical ribbon-cutting ceremony, we decided to have a block party tonight,” Ploski said. “This way the community can get to know us, and everyone is invited to come and visit us.”
The new center features conference rooms for support groups and community gatherings, handicap accessible and gender-neutral bathrooms, HIV testing and counseling and other health services - all designed to foster a space of safety and comfort, said Manzana Bryant, the center’s outreach.
“People can come here for services and feel safe,” she said. “People can rent out the space for use – and they don’t have to be LGBT. The center is for everyone in the community.”
And with an LGBT community between 10,000 and 16,000 people, the community center was right on time, according to Bill Wooten, center committee chairman.
“It’s very crucial,” Wooten said. “This is a safe place for teens. It’s a safe place for those who may feel bullied or having issues with acceptance. There are transgender people in the community who many times are scared to be who they are.”