Lutheran Community Services reaches out to LGBTQ community
For many years, Crook County residents who wanted to attend monthly PFLAG meetings had to drive to Bend — there wasn't a Prineville meeting location.
That has recently changed following some help from Lutheran Community Service Northwest, through which Crook County contracts its mental health services. The organization began providing the group a meeting location about three months ago.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is a nationally based organization that provides support and education for people whose loved one has just come out while advocating for gay and lesbian rights.
Lutheran Community has not only offered support in the form of a new meeting location at its new Elm Street facility, they have reached out to the local LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community, including participation in several Pride Month activities throughout June.
"We have staff who are particularly interested in all types of services that are inclusionary," said Crook County Mental Health Director Laura Placek. "It was just a natural kind of service to offer to PFLAG. We have all of this vast space up here, and we have a lot of well-intended folks who (are aware of) all sorts of PFLAG and LGBTQ types of issues, concerns and community topics."
Placek went on say that it made sense for PFLAG to have a local location that offers support and isn't exclusionary.
"Exclusionary can be based on geographic barriers and transportation barriers," Placek clarified.
Providing a new meeting location was Lutheran Community staff's way of "answering the call of what staff was noticing and observing were deficits," Placek explained.
"Our programming is really dictated and driven by community need," she said.
However, the meeting room is not the only support the organization offers to the LGBTQ community in Crook County. Placek noted that they have clinicians and staff who are trained in servicing and lifting up people who struggle or have issues or concerns.
"I think it is important to mention that there are some barriers to talking about these topics," she said, "and yet for the folks who are in the LGBTQ community, the PFLAG community, this is their daily life and their struggles and celebrations are not different."
In addition to staff services and providing a local meeting location, Lutheran Community is participating in multiple Pride Month events in Prineville. Last week, staff chose a day to celebrate inclusion and acceptance. On Wednesday this week, they will participate in a community partner lunch with PFLAG and other agencies that support the LGBTQ community.
Placek said the staff is especially excited about a Friday, June 28 community-wide barbecue. The event will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. at Ochoco Creek Park near Juniper Street, and the public is encouraged to attend.
"We are inviting the community to come and share in a picnic regarding all things pride and inclusion," Placek remarked. She went on to note that the event will feature information tables hosted by different LGBTQ supporting agencies.
"We are excited about it," she added. "It is the first event of this type (in Prineville)."
The recent outreach by Lutheran Community has resonated with the LGBTQ community and PFLAG members and leaders. Becky Groves, a Prineville resident who long ago joined PFLAG after her son came out, said the group is really excited about the new meeting location and support.
"We have had a lot of interest and support," said Groves, who is currently the chapter's vice-president and Prineville facilitator. "Last month, we featured a transgender panel. There were so many people who showed up, we had to move to a bigger room. We're so grateful to Lutheran Community Services for providing a permanent meeting space for us, and we look forward to providing educational meetings and support to our LGBTQ community and their families and friends living here in Prineville."