MANSFIELD -- The Human Rights Campaign's most recent LGBTQ youth report surveyed over 12,000 teenagers in the U.S. In their responses, 70% reported feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness in the last week. Only 5% said all of their teachers and school staff support LGBTQ people.
Starting April 12, the organization will host a drop-in center every Monday, from 4 to 7 p.m., for middle and high school students between the ages of 12 and 18.
“We've always wanted to be more of a drop-in center where we could be that safe space more than just once a month,” Deena Pfahler, founder and president of Love on a Mission, said. “When we found a space where we were able to potentially be there whenever we wanted, it was just a perfect fit.”
“One day a month, maybe we’ll have yoga. We'll have art classes. We can get a therapist to come in and maybe do a group therapy session, or just to come and speak to the kids about mental health or self-care,” Pfahler continued.
According to their website, Love on a Mission aims to provide an accepting and welcoming community where everyone is free to express themselves and be loved for who they are—a place for creating authentic friendships and thriving as the people they were born to be.
One of the organization's board members recently introduced Pfahler to Joe Ashby, Grace Episcopal Church rector. Ashby embraced the opportunity to provide a space for them in his church.
“The primary mission of Love on a Mission is to support LGBTQ teenagers through young adults, primarily kids in schools having difficult times and young adults,” Ashby said.
“It is a matter of proclaiming God’s love as being inclusive and, particularly, trying to find ways to help those who are most marginalized, vulnerable and have not heard that expression of God’s love, and finding ways for them to experience it,” he continued.
For the first few weeks, the drop-in center will just be a place to meet and mingle. Once there is data on who is showing up and what their specific needs are, they will expand services.
Eventually, the organization hopes to add another drop-in day and separate the middle and high school students. Plans are underway to add more amenities, including a computer for students to use for homework and a closet with free clothing.
“I know some kids, especially if they're trans, don't have the support of their families,” Pfahler said about the clothes closet. “Just to have something that maybe represents something their parents wouldn't help them to purchase. They can come and look at it and obviously it's all free.”
Anyone interested in helping Love on a Mission settle into their new space can donate on their website, purchase items from their wishlist or reach out on Facebook to coordinate dropping off new or gently used items.
“We are here and excited to expand our hours and excited to see what this year is going to bring for us and for the youth in our community,” Pfahler said.