NEW BEDFORD – Construction is underway to bring the SouthCoast LGBTQ + Network closer to its goal of being a hub for the LGBTQ + community south of Boston.
âWe are there and it is moving fast. And it’s really exciting, âsaid Kerry Zeida, Marketing Director and Network Board Member. “And what a great time to talk about it during Pride Month.”
In February, the SouthCoast LGBTQ + network announced that it had signed a buy and sell agreement for the former Sister Rose House location at 60 Eighth St., next to Union Church.
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“It has withstood 113 years of existence,” added Zeida. Built in 1908, the former four-story homeless shelter sat vacant for six years until the network could buy it from the city for $ 15,000.
âThe city is happy that we are here. We are happy to be here, âsaid President Andrew Pollack. The center will welcome LGBTQ + youth aged 8-24, adults and seniors from across the South Coast.
âUnity is at the heart of belonging,â said Zeida. âIt’s a major motivation here, to bring together people who otherwise would feel very isolated without it. “
The centre’s mission is to meet the needs of well-being, mental health and nutrition. It will also provide resources to health care and financial services as well as connection with the community by serving as a safe haven for all.
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âThe goal for us is to have a space that rivals anything you can get in Boston, Providence or the greater East Coast area,â Zeida said. âThere’s going to be training, meetings, activities, eventsâ¦ therapists on the third floor, everything.
Visit of the future center
The planned completion of the center will not take place until December 2022. Exterior renovations are expected to begin next month. In collaboration with the Waterfront Historic Area LeaguE (WHALE), the building will receive a historically accurate facelift as well as period stained glass windows.
There will be disabled access and the backyard will be landscaped.
The first floor will have a boardroom for meetings, social events and training. Across the hall there will be a commercial kitchen and a cafe. The kitchenette will allow nutrition programs and can be rented from vendors. The building will also have a new elevator.
The second floor will have a multipurpose space for additional meetings and mingling furnished with comfortable armchairs and sofas. There will also be a computer room with computers for people to check email, social media, or take extra classes. The entire building will have free Wi-Fi from Comcast.
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âWe see it as a place where the elderly can come in, have a cup of coffee while sitting in a chair and reading a book. The kids can come in and use the computers or take something out of the kitchen, âPollack said.
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Across the hall, there will be a community art space specifically for LGBTQ + youth. âWe felt that one of the topics we really wanted to focus on was our creative expression,â Zeida said. “There is so much positivity in being able to express yourself as an LGBTQ + individual that we really wanted to bring it to the center.”
On the third floor, there will be rental space available for offices. âWe collect most of our money through grants and community generosity,â Zeida said. “So the idea of ââbeing as financially independent as possible is really important to us.”
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Zeida said that in addition to the hard work in the community, the SouthCoast LGBTQ + Network Core Team is about six people. âWhat we were able to accomplishâ¦ Imagine how much we hope to accomplish once everyone is literally under one roof and all of our efforts are organized,â he said. “It’s very exciting for me.”
The next step towards completion
So far, Zeida says, they have raised about 40% of their target towards completing the centre’s construction plans. They are about to launch a summer campaign through a new website dedicated to the center.
The next few months will be devoted to uninterrupted fundraising, requesting sponsorships and organizing more center visits to attract donations.
“No one is going to come and do it for us,” Pollack added. âHere is a chance we have with this community center. It’s a new and unique experience, at least in this part of the state for the whole state. And we can really do it.
“We need shoulders behind the wheel.”
Standard-Times team writer Seth Chitwood can be reached at [email protected]. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Standard-Times today.