A portion of donations to the United Way’s ongoing $2.3-million fundraising campaign in Perth and Huron counties will benefit the Stratford Pride Community Centre, the charity’s local branch has announced.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion are important to the overall well-being of our community,” Ryan Erb, United Way Perth Huron’s executive director, said Tuesday in a press release.
“United Way is committed to supporting our friends, neighbors and family members in the local LGBTQ+ community and the (Stratford Pride Community Centre) plays an important role in those efforts.”
The United Way’s announcement comes as that organization and several other Stratford institutions continue community-wide equity, diversity and inclusion talks.
The exercise to collectively define what it means for Stratford to be a “welcoming community” launched this month in response to several hate-related incidents reported in the region last year. Public meetings continues Jan. 28, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 before a draft definition based on those conversations is sent to city hall for official recognition.
The United Way helped the Stratford Pride Community Center get off the ground when a group of volunteers launched it in the summer of 2021. The group’s goal has been to develop resources and social opportunities for local members of the LGBTQ+ community, Stratford and Perth County’s many LGBTQ+ visitors, and others thinking about settling down in the region.
Bruce Duncan Skeaff, the community centre’s president, said Tuesday the financial boost from the United Way’s campaign will be “crucial to our goal of providing social and health supports and services for the LGBTQ+ population where none existed before.”
In its announcement, the United Way cited statistics from the Canadian Mental Health Association and Rainbow Health Ontario that illustrate the types of challenges many members of the LGBTQ+ community are facing, including higher than average rates of mental-health challenges, such as depression, anxiety , obsessive-compulsive and phobic disorders, suicidality, self-harm and substance abuse.
LGBTQ+ people also face double the risk of post-traumatic stress disorder while LGBTQ+ youth are 14 times more likely to be at risk of suicide and substance use than their heterosexual peers, the United Way said.
The local United Way branch has so far raised about 75 per cent of its current target.
“With continued support from the community, we hope to achieve our fundraising total and provide core operational support funds for the (pride centre),” Erb said.
The Stratford Pride Community Center is preparing for its own fundraiser, Winter Pridein February.
The four day event begins Feb. 9. More information is available at stratfordpride.com.