Sparking hope in central Ohio, a PFLAG chapter was just formed in Mount Vernon

By Alissa Paolella, The Buckeye Flame

Local clergy and activists in Mount Vernon are organizing to provide support and resources to area LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. 

In early October, supporters in the Knox County seat—about 40 miles northeast of Columbus—gathered for an organizational meeting to discuss forming a PFLAG chapter. While they were met by protestors, they forged ahead. 

PFLAG is a grassroots network with over 400 chapters and 200,000 members and supporters crossing multiple generations of families in major urban centers, small cities, and rural areas across America, according to its website. The organization is “committed to creating a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued, and affirmed.” 

Robin Szalapato, site supervisor at The Main Place Inc., a mental health recovery center, identified a gap in services for LGBTQ+ individuals. Szalapato connected with Rev. Scott Elliott of First Congregational United Church of Christ and Rev. Rachel Harrison of St. Paul Episcopal Church to discuss ways to collaborate and develop a community-based support network. 

“As we discussed options, we realized there were many more organizations and individuals that would be instrumental in making this a success,” Szalapato said. “In order to involve everyone, we decided that it would be in our best interest to become involved with a reputable and well-established organization. We decided on PFLAG.”

At the organizational meeting, 13 attendees voted unanimously to start a Mount Vernon PFLAG chapter. 

PFLAG will be the second organization for LGBTQ+ people to form in Knox County this year, joining the Knox County Pride Alliance

What’s next for the group? 

“Our next step is to bring everyone interested together and develop a board of directors. This will involve accepting nominations and voting on key positions,” Szalapato said. “My goal is to bring hope and support to the LGBTQ+ community here locally. I am a strong believer that every individual should be treated with respect and dignity. … I hope that this group will not only provide support to the LGBTQ+ community, but also to educate the public and encourage compassion and tolerance.” 🔥

Ignite Action:

  • Learn more about Mount Vernon PFLAG by visiting their Facebook group. 

The Buckeye Flame is an platform dedicated to amplifying the voices of LGBTQ+ Ohioans to support community and civic empowerment through the creation of engaging content that chronicles their triumphs, struggles, and lived experiences.

Copyright 2021 The Buckeye Flame. Reprinted with permission by The Buckeye Flame.

Published by Alissa Paolella

Alissa Paolella is a writer, editor, photographer, social media manager, and marketing communications strategist with over 15 years of experience in the news media, advertising, and health care industries. They have overseen print and digital campaigns for small and large organizations and has served as a communications consultant for numerous nonprofits and universities. In their free time, Alissa enjoys trail-hiking with their camera and almost always has a book (or two) nearby.

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