Written By: Doug Harris 3/9/15
With the goal of starting a new regional nonprofit organization called Panhandle Pride, the Scotts Bluff County Democratic Party sponsored a celebratory public picnic at Gardner Park in Gering on Saturday.
Scotts Bluff County Democratic Party chairperson Jeff Leanna said he was pleased with the turn-out and happy for all the local support from area media, businesses, churches and restaurants. “We have people here from three different states,” he said. “People came from as far as Colorado Springs, and Lincoln and some came over from Wyoming.”
Leanna said the picnic was designed to bring together LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) citizens, their families, and other allies to meet and greet one another as they work to start the nonprofit.
“A really broad mix of folks came out,” Leanna said. “Local sponsors helped out and other community entities set up tables to assist us.” Leanna said some of the main sponsors who set up booths at the picnic were Region One Behavioral Health, DOVES, Disability Rights Nebraska and CAPWN. First Christian Church of Scottsbluff, and the Abbey Church also showed their support at the LGBT picnic.
Event participant Megan Athey from Scottsbluff said, “This is amazing. I honestly didn’t think we’d have this in Scottsbluff and Gering.”
Athey said she hoped there would be similar get-togethers in the future. “A lot of good people are here.”
Leanna said the Democratic Party shares the concerns of several social service agencies who reach out to assist the LBGT community.
“We see people who are not accepted for who they are, especially youth, and young adults,” he said. “There are homeless issues. DOVES helps with that. A high percentage of LGBT youth are kicked out of their homes. The suicide rate is high. We feel helping to start a nonprofit agency to be a resource is a good idea for our region.”
Leanna said Pride in the Park shows strong community support.
“Events like this … you see allies and people like you,” he said. “We had a lot of teachers show up too and I think that is really positive. This is a good event to show you are not alone. You are not the only one and friends and family are here to support you.”
Along with people getting to know one another, the event also raised funds through a raffle. Proceeds were split between the Democratic Party and Panhandle Pride. “The Scottsbluff Applebee’s donated 10 gift certificates, and Saddle Creek Records in Omaha donated CD’s,” he said. Panhandle Pride will use the funds to register as a non-profit, and to create a website.
“Education is key,” Athey said. “People are afraid of things they don’t know anything about. Coming together like this is fun. It is nice to meet new people. People like us.”
Other picnic sponsors included attorney Michael Meister, Godfather’s Pizza, Gering Pizza Hut, Nebraska Roots and media outlets KOTA Territory News, the Star-Herald, Bluffs Broadcasting, KNEB Radio, and the Gering Citizen.
Source: Gering Citizen