Grand opening of the Mount Pleasant Pride Center
There are numerous LGBTQ+ spaces and clubs on Central Michigan University's campus. But what about for those off campus, who aren't in college yet or have already graduated?
This is a question that has been answered by Mount Pleasant Counseling. On Oct. 27 they held a Halloween party and grand opening for the Mount Pleasant Pride Center. The center officially opened on Oct. 30, and they will be open from Monday through Friday with hours varying daily between 12 p.m and 5 p.m.
The event took place from 4 to 7 p.m. at 201 S. University Suite 106, where the new center is located. The room was decorated with Halloween decor such as pumpkins, skeletons and strands of purple and orange lights. It also had pride flags hung on the walls and rainbow streamers draping from the windows.
Music played from a radio in the corner, thought not easy to make out through the laughter and chatter of visitors. Some were dressed in costumes, such as faires, pirates and clowns. Others worn rainbow ties and buttons with their preferred pronouns on them.
Along with the camaraderie the event offered, the center offered a table of snacks and drinks for people to enjoy.
Deanna Heath is a licensed counselor who supervises the Mount Pleasant Counselor Center. She said when asking for volunteers, they got a major response.
Heath secured the location, which was previously an old office she worked in, and was at the event to show support.
The idea for the center came from a client at Mount Pleasant Counseling named Ebay Merlin, a 2022 CMU graduate and current volunteer at the pride center.
"I'd been thinking about it for a while," Merlin said. "There's lots of LGBT events on campus, and that's great, but there aren't as many off campus."
Merlin was motivated to start a group since following the SALUS Center on Facebook, an LGBTQ+ center based in Lansing, as well as watching an LGBTQ+ show on Netflix called "Heartstopper."
These two combined made Merlin think, "I need that" in terms of a community, so he started to research and create lists of ideas. Eventually, he presented the list to his counselor, Connor McGahan, who connected him to Heath to start opening the center.
"The counseling center already had monthly events for queer people," Merlin said. "I'm just taking what they had already started and putting a name to it. They already had the foundation."
McGahan, volunteer coordinator for the pride center, said he is working to make the center nonprofit, and will take on the title of chairman of the board of directors once it does.
"A lot of people are feeling lost right now," McGahan said. "I wanted to create a safe space for them to have that sense of community and space to make a change."
This is a sentiment echoed by the other volunteers.
"I think the general consensus is that it would be really cool to have an LGBT center," Heath said. "People can just come to hang out or find resources."
Mount Pleasant Pride Center is currently working on planning future events and to gather more resources for the community.
"Some ideas we're working with right now (include) maybe having a list of LGBT-friendly businesses or places for gender affirming care in the Central Michigan area," Heath said. "We're trying to get our resources together right now so that people have access when they come into the center."
"We're kind of working a lot of stuff out when we open next week," Heath said. "I have our hours on social media, so it's just gonna be kind of waiting to see what people think."
For more information on the pride center's hours and updates on future meetings and events, you can find them on Facebook and Instagram or contact them at 989-402-5262 or email@example.com.