HAUPPAUGE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A new gay-friendly community center set to open up to teenagers and others is being called a game changer for LGBT youth growing up on Long Island.
It’s safe place that many feel is a long time coming, reports CBS2’s Valerie Castro.
Devin Campbell is one of the first to get a guided tour of the LGBT Network‘s new community center in Hauppauge.
“This center helps mold and shape people to be who they want to be, to help people in ways not many people can understand,” said Campbell.
For the last four years, the non-profit has connected the Mastic Beach man to peers going through the same thing he is, helping him to feel less isolated
“I have learned about other people’s journeys, lives, tribulations,” he said.
Their new 15,000-square-foot building, which is the country’s largest suburban LGBT community center, will help out even more.
The network’s president is working with crews to put last minutes touches on the building. The space is four times the size of their previous location.
“We had to turn people, or events away in our Bayshore facility, we no longer have to do that,” said David Kilmnick, president and CEO of the LGBT Network.
Thanks to donations and grants, he’s turning their old Bayshore Center into affordable housing for LGBT seniors, where 75 units will be built there in the next two years.
“In our senior years and our golden years, people should be able to live their lives, completely free and honest and don’t feel like they have to go back in the closet,” said Kilmnick.
Their new Happauge center will offer free HIV screening, a café, and has state of the art community meeting rooms – one of which will seat 250 and has a 160 inch screen
“It will help develop that person in a healthy way as they grow up, but also it helps them become an advocate for change,” said Kilmnick.
The network can now offer more programs such as after school tutoring and a career program called Pathways To Pride that will help LBBT kids finish school.
“40 percent of LGBT students report being shoved or pushed at school,” said Executive VP and COO Robert Vitelli. “Those kids skip class or drop out of school to avoid that harassment.”
The center will also be employing about a dozen more people.
For more about LGBT Network, see the group’s website at LGBTNetwork.org.