The folks at Hagerstown Hopes have been very busy. For months I’ve been seeing updates via their Facebook page: exciting news of a new community center, social outings, and of course, news of the upcoming Hagerstown Pride. I recently met with Jeff Rohrer, president of Hagerstown Hopes, to learn more about what they’ll be bringing to the community. Let me tell you, it’s everything I could have asked for, and more.

First on the list is the new LGBTQ community center located in Mulberry Lofts, which is expected to open very soon. Rohrer says that they’re down to a few finishing details and expect the center to be up and running within a few weeks. The center – a first for Hagerstown – will be a designated safe space for those in the LGBTQ community and will provide programs and groups to address the needs of those in our area. Rohrer said that the center plans to provide activities for young people in our community who currently have no other LGBTQ-friendly options in the area.

Currently, there are few social options for LGBTQ youth who are not yet old enough to participate in functions hosted by The Lodge, our local gay bar. Rohrer mentioned that there are currently three gay-straight alliances in Washington County schools and that the board of Hagerstown Hopes has already begun working with these groups. Board members met with students to discuss how LGBTQ issues have changed during their lifetimes, leading both adults and students to the realization that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It’s with this in mind that the board began to focus on youth initiatives. Hagerstown Hopes is in the process of developing trainings for educators working with LGBTQ youth, a growing population amongst students. There is also a focus on creating safe, supportive, and affirming spaces for transgender and gender non-conforming students, many of whom attend schools that currently offer no trainings or information for educators and staff members in the issues affecting trans students.

Hagerstown Hopes is also tackling a number of health initiatives. They’ve reached out to the Washington County Health Department, the free clinic, and WVU Hospital in Martinsburg to advocate for the healthcare needs of LGBTQ persons in the community.

Rohrer and I also discussed the upcoming Pride celebration, scheduled for Saturday, July 14th. So far, we can expect an appearance from drag superstar Latrice Royale and a day of performances by local entertainers, bands, and DJs. Hagerstown Hopes is also raffling a trip for two to Las Vegas; the winners will be announced at the Pride Party at The Lodge. Rohrer said that this year’s celebration will be more of a festival environment than in previous years. He also politely refused to spill all the tea, saying he didn’t want to ruin any surprises, but the gleam in his eye tells me that this will be a Pride to remember.

There are a number of simple things you can do to get involved with Hagerstown Hopes. If you haven’t already, like their page on Facebook and share their posts so others will know what’s going on in our community. There is also a volunteer form you can submit, letting them know how you’d like to help out. Rohrer says they’ve already received dozens of submissions, an impressive feat indeed. Hagerstown Hopes also has open meetings, but be sure to arrive early as Rohrer says the last few meetings have been standing room only. In addition, Hagerstown Hopes also has networking and socializing nights out at local restaurants to build our presence and involvement in the community. Check out their Facebook page or website, Hagerstownhopesmd.org for more information.

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