Just a few months into its founding, Savannah LGBT Center has already engaged 5,000 residents through partner organizations offering a slew of advocacy, health and social programming.
Managed by First City Network (FCN), the center is a non-profit organization established for the benefit of the Savannah LGBTQ community. According to the center’s website, the purpose of the center is to create a home for partner organizations to better provide services in a stable location accessible for those who need them.
Billy Wooten, the Savannah LGBT Center director, has been involved in the local LGBT community for the past 19 years.
“FCN is the parent agency of the center,” Wooten said. “I was the executive director of a large national non-profit prior to taking early retirement. My nonprofit experience, and being a member of the LGBT community serves me well in the capacity of center director.”
Wooten said the response to the center since its opening has been positive.
“There have been no negative comments or issues with the opening,” Wooten said. “We have been open for one month, so we have only just started using the building.”
According to Wooten, the Center offers wellness services, mental health counseling, pastoral care and counseling, AA, CMA, AIDS/HIV support group, HIV testing, art shows in the gallery, meeting spaces for the FCN board, PRIDE Board, and assorted committees, transgender education and empowerment group, StandOut Youth, Georgia AIDS Coalition advocacy group, silent meditation time.
“We have not started a social schedule of events like movies, bingo, books club, bridge club, etc.,” Wooten said. “We are open Tuesday thru Friday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., in addition to all the various times the facility is used by the groups and organizations. We have wifi, television, bathrooms, and space that people can work on their laptops or iPads, read, or just chill.”
SCAD also has a gay-straight alliance club on campus, SCAD Queers & Allies (Q&A). Krista Harberson, Professor of Foundations at SCAD Savannah, has been the Queers & Allies Faculty Adviser since 2006. She discovered the student organization after a former student involved in the club mentioned they were in need of a new faculty advisor.
“Originally, Q&A was a very small, fledgling club where on a good night you could expect to see approximately 12 to 15 members in attendance,” Harberson said. “Through careful planning, excellent student leadership, and dedication, Queers & Allies has grown to be one of the largest clubs on campus and one of the largest gay-straight alliances in Georgia and the southeast region. Currently, on a slow meeting night, we average anywhere from 30 to 50 members in attendance.”
Harberson said Q&A is a very open club that welcomes all people who identify under the LGBTQ umbrella, as well as those who identify as straight allies. Queers & Allies also has two supplemental groups, Ace Space for our Asexual and Aromantic members and Trans Space for our trans and non-binary members.
“The purpose for our supplemental groups is that over time, we as a club have come to recognize the additional needs that some of the more marginalized members of the LGBT+ community have and how they can’t always be addressed as fully as we would like during our standard meeting times,” Harberson said. “These supplemental groups allow for those additional needs to be met while also encouraging Asexual, Aromantic, Trans and Non-Binary members to attend regular Q&A meetings.”
Harberson said the club hosts several meetings per quarter that offer presentations on LGBT culture and issues that arise within that culture. In addition to having a table at Fall Fest this upcoming weekend, Harberson said Q&A will be hosting their annual Gender Blender Ball in the Student Center.
For those interested in getting involved with Q&A, Harberson said all students are welcome to club meetings Thursday nights from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. in Eichberg hall.
For students looking to get involved in the LGBT community beyond SCAD, Wooten said the Savannah LGBT Center is in the process of training volunteers in order to increase the number of operational hours. Those interested in learning more about the Center or getting involved can visit the Center’s website or email Wooten at email@example.com.