Organization creates support group for LGBTQ youth after seeing no similar service in local town

VIRGINIA BEACH, Virginia – It all started when Mark Stevens tried to help an LGBTQ youth in search of 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 little shocked.”

He is the executive director of Standup For Kids, a local nonprofit organization 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 safe haven for LGBTQ youth where they can feel comforted and supported.

“It’s really their meeting,” Pixler said, “What’s important to them; what problems they have in their life; things are happening with them. “

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

“We asked a young lady to look at the clock at 8:30 p.m. and it ends at 9:00 p.m.,” Pixler said. “She was like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to go.’ I think we knew in our hearts and we were doing it right. “

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

The first meeting takes place on Wednesday June 16. “You” meets the third Wednesday of each month at the Maison du potier, located at 1709, avenue du Pacifique, from 7 pm to 9 pm. Young people who identify as LGBTQ may simply introduce themselves.

Related: Cuddle Impact: A Local Moms Group Cuddles LGBTQ Members Rejected By Their Parents

“We’ve had a lot of responses,” Stevens said. “A lot of parents are calling us to thank us for what we are 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 via their Facebook page or by calling (757) 818-4901.

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