Celebration and Community in Pierce County, Washington

The fireworks ended, the pie was cleaned up… the 4th of July came to a close, and that was also a sign that Tacoma Pride was just a few days away! A multi-day affair, Pride Foundation was honored to kick-off Tacoma Pride on July 12th with the annual presentation of the Rainbow Awards. Started as a means to celebrate and thank essential, and often times unrecognized, volunteers and leaders in the LGBTQ community in Pierce County, the Rainbow Awards have been part of the fabric of the pride festival since 2007. This year’s awardees exemplified service, bravery, and a profound commitment to equality.

Sapphire Award (Youth): Serena Norton

Ruby Award (Ally): Jessica Gavre

Emerald Award (Organization): Broadway Center for the Performing Arts

Diamond Hall of Fame (Long-term, Exemplary Service): Rev. Dr. Melvin Woodworth

The evening event featured remarks and congratulations from Washington State Representative, Laurie Jenkins, the Mayor of Tacoma, Marilyn Strickland, and Tacoma City Council member, Ryan Mello, and focused on the incredible story of hard-work and progress toward equality that has been Tacoma’s history over the last decade. At times facing significant set-backs, the future for LGBTQ people in Tacoma is hopeful, and there is a broad coalition of businesses, families, and neighbors all committed to welcoming and celebrating every person and family. As the rainbow flag was raised at City Hall, it seemed to mark the start of a new era for equal rights in Pierce County.

Part of the electricity and momentum in Tacoma is the Creating Community Campaign, which will bring Oasis Youth Center and the Rainbow Center under one shared roof. This project leverages the success of two well-loved and strong organizations that will achieve and learn even more in shared space. Co-location provides opportunities for young LGBTQ people to meet and interact with LGBTQ and allied adults who are out, thriving, and committed to their community. This link between the generations is one of the critical ways to get involved in the life of a young person who has been exiled or rejected by their family and is struggling to believe or see an adulthood that could be stable, joyful, and successful. This model is particularly potent in Tacoma, the city named in 2013 by The Advocate as the “Gayest City in America.” With many out and respected LGBTQ elected officials, gay-owned businesses, and a tangible sense of pride for the area, the city is taking its industrial and military roots, and building a new definition of urban America.

Oasis and the Rainbow Center model the kind of innovative grassroots partnership that continues to inspire Pride Foundation donors and our work as a community foundation. Together, they are poised to make history as the only co-located LGBTQ youth and broader community center in Washington State. The impact of this model holds local significance and national importance.

We are so incredibly thankful for the courage of the staff and volunteers of these two organizations for dreaming big and rolling up their sleeves (in many cases, literally, to move donated furniture, paint walls or tote boxes…) and to do the hard work to build the campaign and complete the move. With support from across the community and beyond, the Creating Community Campaign is near to its financial goal and days away from moving and toasting as they hand team members their new keys. To find out more, make a gift or get involved, please visit their website: http://www.orctacoma.org/.

Jody is Pride Foundation’s Director of Community Giving. Email Jody.

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