BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — After eight years of renting spaces at local churches, a West Michigan LGBTQ+ nonprofit organization got the keys to a space of its own.
The Battle Creek Pride Resource Center has met in an upstairs room at the First Congregational Church near downtown Battle Creek since 2016, but they eventually outgrew the space.
"I think this will be really important for people to have this space where they are seen, where they are heard and where they are supported," said Battle Creek Pride Co-President Deana Spencer.
While Battle Creek Pride has been around for over 10 years, it was renting spaces in churches around the community for eight of those.
"We could only grow so much in where we were. Now that we’ve expanded, we have three times the space," said Battle Creek Pride Co-President Kim Langridge.
With more space, the nonprofit said they hope they make the new building feel more welcoming and inclusive.
"There is still a lot of stigma around the church as an entity and just the religious persecution that the LGBTQ+ people have suffered for centuries," said Spencer.
For Langridge, who joined the organization just three years ago, she said having a visible building means a lot for those needing support and acceptance.
"I know for my own experiences as a trans woman. It is difficult to make a transition within your family, but then you need to go public. You can’t stay hidden away. When you are able to come to where people are able to know your backstory, they understand and can relate to that, it makes everything so much easier," said Langridge.
The Battle Creek Pride Resource Center signed a two-year lease with plans to use the entire lower level of the building located at Calhoun and Harvard Street not far from downtown. The new location also focuses on accessibility for all.
The center will feature a computer center, conference rooms, a lounge, and a games and recreation area.
It will also be getting a makeover before the official opening on July 1.
"We plan to erect a sign out front, put up flags. We are in the process of working with a local artist to put a mural on the building, so it is going to be very visual. It will be unmistakable with who we are, where we are, and very accessible for people," said Spencer.
Battle Creek Pride is planning to host its first board meeting in the new space on Monday, June 21. It is open to the public.
The organization will be hosting its Pride Week starting July 19 to July 25. It will also have an open house on July 24 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at their new location on 104 Calhoun Street.
For more information on Pride Week events and times or to get involved, click here.