Local organization creates support group for LGBTQ youth

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — It all started when Mark Stevens tried to help an LGBTQ youth looking for resources.

“The closest was the LGBTQ center in Norfolk — a big center — but they didn’t have one in Virginia Beach,” Stevens said. “I was a bit shocked.”

He is the executive director of Standup For Kids, a local nonprofit that helps homeless youth in Virginia Beach.

With help from the Hampton Roads LGBT Life Center and the Virginia Beach Police Department, Stevens started “You,” a monthly support group for LGBTQ youth in the city.

“We have a high suicide rate, a high homelessness rate in the community,” Stevens said. “It really bothered me – that we didn’t have a resource for them.”

Stevens and his co-executive director Nicole Pixler said they hope “You” will provide a haven for LGBTQ youth where they can feel comforted and supported.

“It’s really their meeting,” Pixler said, “what’s important to them; what issues they have in their life; things that are going on with them.”

Pixler said the organization had a “sweet” meeting last month. About five people showed up, she said.

“We had a young lady look at the clock at 8:30 p.m. and it ends at 9 p.m.,” Pixler said. “She was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to leave.’ I think we knew in our hearts and we did it right.”

As for the name “You,” Pixler said it was based on a mural painted locally by a teacher in support of Pride Month and the LGBTQ community.

The first meeting is Wednesday, June 16. “You” meets the third Wednesday of each month at Potter’s House, located at 1709 Pacific Ave., from 7-9 p.m. Young people who identify as LGBTQ can simply introduce themselves.

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“We got a lot of responses,” Stevens said. “A lot of parents are calling us, thanking us for what we’re doing because they haven’t had a place to take their youth.”

“You” is currently looking for volunteers and support to run the program. Anyone interested can contact Standup For Kids through their Facebook page or by calling (757) 818-4901.

Virginia S. Braud