Organization creates LGBTQ youth support group after seeing no similar services in local city

Posted at 3:33 PM, Jun 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-16 17:33:19-04

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- It all started when Mark Stevens tried to help an LGBTQ youth looking for resources.

“The closest was the LGBTQ center in Norfolk - a great center - but they didn’t have one in Virginia Beach,” Stevens said. "I was a little shocked."

He is the executive director of Standup For Kids, a local nonprofit that assists homeless youth in Virginia Beach.

With the help of the Hampton Roads LGBT Life Center and the Virginia Beach Police Department, Stevens started "You," a monthly support group for LGBTQ youth in the city.

“We have a high suicide rate, high homeless rate in the community,” Stevens said. “That really bothered me - that we didn’t have a resource for them."

Stevens and his co-executive director Nicole Pixler said they hope "You" will provide a haven for LGBTQ youth where they can feel comforted and supported.

“It’s really their meeting,” Pixler said, “What’s important to them; what issues they have in their lives; things going on with them."

Pixler said the organization had a "soft" meeting last month. About five people showed up, she said.

“We had one young lady look at the clock at 8:30 p.m., and it ends at 9 p.m.,” Pixler said. "She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t want to leave.’ I think we knew in our hearts and that we were doing it right."

As for the name "You," Pixler said it was based off a mural painted locally by a school teacher in support of Pride Month and the LGBTQ community.

The first meeting is Wednesday, June 16. "You" meets the third Wednesday every month at the Potter's House, located at 1709 Pacific Ave., from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Youth who identify as LGBTQ can simply show up.

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“We’ve had a lot of responses,” Stevens said. “A lot of parents calling us, thanking us on what we’re doing because they haven’t had a place to take their Youth."

"You" is currently looking for volunteers and support to run the program. Anyone interested can reach out to Standup For Kids through its Facebook pageor by calling (757) 818-4901.