The Gay and Lesbian Center of Southern Nevada held its annual Youth Thanksgiving dinner this past Thursday evening. This yearly event is one of my favorite volunteer experiences as it brings our community together for the purpose of providing a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ youth to share a meal. Unfortunately even in these days of progressive thinking, many of our youth are shamed and neglected by their families for simply living their truth. This event depends solely on the contributions of food and supplies from donators in the community. It is a heartening reminder that there is so much love and empathy in our community and whenever there is an opportunity to lift members of our community up, there are leaders such as A.J Holly and Holly Reese of the Center who along with like minded and passionate volunteers make events like this dinner happen.
I remember volunteering for this event as a member of another organization along with my husband in the old home of the Center located not so long ago in the Commercial Center. Back then it was raining that night and the roof leaked. We arranged all the food on folding tables including a ping pong table. The lines were out the door and wrapped around the entrance of the Center. This was before marriage equality passed and it was a time when our community faced trying times as many of our youth were ostracized by their flesh and blood for being gay. This is still an issue within our community but this year as in the last few years, attendance at the Center’s annual youth dinner seems to have decreased. For this writer and volunteer, I’d like to think this is a sign that perhaps our youth are finding the love and acceptance that they deserve from their families and that more of them are having dinner at home this holiday season. Where there is hope, there is love and where there is spirit, there is community. As always, I am proud of being able to stand with my fellow friends and volunteers during events like these. I can’t stress enough the importance of supporting our youth and being there for each other. The Center is such an important component of our city’s LGBTQ community and when it thrives, we all thrive together. Let’s all do our part to make it stronger.