By Shawn Nowlin
The Roanoke Diversity Center (RDC), a non-profit organization that provides a haven for LBGTQ youth and adults as well as programming events for the community, celebrated its ten-year anniversary on March 25.
The community Open House featured prizes and games as well as performances from Amia and others. Appetizers, courtesy of Food Hut Roanoke, were also provided. While not required, donations were accepted. Among those in attendance was Peter Volosin, the current Chair of the Board.
It was Frank House who established the RDC a decade ago. Starting at humble beginnings, the organization relocated from the Metropolitan Community Church in Southeast Roanoke to 425 Campbell Avenue in June 2021.
Open Tuesday through Friday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, RDC’s primary goals are to enable community centers to interact informally, enhance access to resources, reduce isolation for marginalized individuals, and advocate for equality, locally and at the state and national level.
While a pinpoint number is difficult, Gallup estimates that 7.6 percent of the U.S. adult population identifies as either lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Fear of job employment discrimination and family disapproval remains a reality for many LGBTQ folk.
Until June 2015 when the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges that marriage is a fundamental right, same-sex couples did not have the same rights as opposite-sex couples.
Every dollar raised by the RDC, noted board member Joe Cobb, stays in the Roanoke Valley area and is used for the delivery of programs and services that fulfill that mission.
“The Roanoke Diversity Center started in one room and just expanded through the years. It was always Frank’s dream and it continues to be the dream of the Board to have a downtown storefront location. We have that now on Campbell Avenue with countless books filled with LBGTQ history and characters,” said the councilman.
He added, “I’ve lived in Roanoke for 21 years. When I first moved here, I was concerned if this would be a place where I would feel welcomed. I wasn’t interested in hiding anymore. In terms of self-care, I wanted to make sure that by being out, I wasn’t going to be harmed. I’ve seen extraordinary progress over the last two decades. Most people add to the fabric of this inclusive, special city.”
On April 23, the RDC will be having a ten-year anniversary brunch. For the most up-to-date information, visit roanokediversitycenter.com.