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Area’s LGBTQ support program celebrates first anniversary

Lighthouse, the south suburban area’s first support program for LGBTQ young people and their parents, marked its first anniversary with a celebration at the group’s April meeting.

The program was founded to provide support for teens and adults who are processing their gender identity and for the parents and guardians who love them.

Valerie Litchfield and Stephanie Wright, who are both mothers of gay sons, and Phillip Barker, a social worker and student assistance coordinator at Homewood-Flossmoor High School, came together last year to start the program, and to provide resources and a support group for young members of the LGBTQ  community.

“Lighthouse is a safe, accepting place where individuals are encouraged to come as they are, wherever they are in their journeys,” the program’s organizers said in a flier last spring.

In an anniversary message shared with the Homewood-Flossmoor Chronicle, Lighthouse’s three organizers said it’s been a busy year and that the program continues to evolve “and so do we.”

Year One was filled with gratifying moments, the organizers say.

“We continue to be deeply touched by both the parents and the members of the LGBTQ community who have shared their stories with us,” they said. “Their beauty and strength constantly inspire us.”

Lighthouse meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Community House, 847 Hutchinson Road in Flossmoor.

“As we look back at our year in review we are pleased with the contacts we have made and are grateful for the trust that the members of the LGTQ community have placed with us,” the three principals said.

During its first year, in addition to monthly meetings, Lighthouse held a prayer vigil in June for the victims of the Orlando nightclub massacre; it was attended by more than 100 members of the Homewood-Flossmoor community.

The group sponsored a well-attended holiday open house for members and their families, along with allies.

In February, Lighthouse hosted an open event featuring a guest speaker, Pastor Andrea Denney, who spoke on the subject of interpreting the passages in the Bible that are most often used to support homophobic thoughts and ideas within the Christian community. This event drew approximately 50 LGBTQ community members and allies.

Lighthouse is planning a special Pride event in June.

“Our monthly meetings have been attended by a small, but mighty group of people who seem to really appreciate having a place to gather and support each other,” the three principals said. “Of course we would love to grow our numbers and continually brainstorm ways in which to get the word out about Lighthouse and all that it has to offer.”

A small number of parents attended Lighthouse meetings for much of the year so Lighthouse decided in February to meet with parents on an “as needed” basis. Parents are encouraged to communicate with Lighthouse through a private message on the program’s Facebook page or by email to Litchfield, Wright or Barker.

The organizers thanked Flossmoor Community Church for the funding that allowed the launch of Lighthouse’s website, www.lighthouselgbtq.org. The website went live in March. It posts information about Lighthouse meetings, special events, resources and more.

Lighthouse has also had a Facebook page for more than a year.

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