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Cleveland's LGBT Center helps 'chosen family' celebrate holidays

The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland is on a mission to make sure people aren't hungry or lonely this holiday season.

CLEVELAND — "There's no place like home for the holidays." At least, that's how the song goes.

For many, that involves trips to be surrounded by family. But for some in the LGBTQ community, it can be isolating.

It’s something Gulnar Feerasta sees first hand as the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland's Director of Programs.

“A lot of our folks experience isolation, and that brings anxiety, that brings depression, that brings a lot of struggles with feeling hopeful, with feeling happy,” Feerasta said.

The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland is a place where people can connect with mental health and primary care resources, access AA meetings and smart recovery, or even just know they'll have a friend during what can be an isolating season if you aren't accepted by your family, or can't leave home.

“We have volunteers and our center staff that are making weekly phone calls just to check in to let them know someone cares about them and is thinking about them,” Feerasta said.

The LGBTQ community faces higher rates of both poverty and homelessness, so the center helps with a grocery program and even getting out on the streets.

“40 percent of homeless youth in Cleveland are LGBTQ identifying and that is huge,” Feerasta said.

A huge local employer is poised to help.

Pride Works, Sherwin-Williams' employee resource group, is planning a hygiene drive to start in the new year.

“We actually reached out to the center and to Phyllis (Harris, executive director of LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland ) to see how we can support best and she came back to us with this hygiene drive with these hygiene kits,” Naomi Gerace with Pride Works said.

The drive starting in January and going through February is spearheaded by employees who have found solace at the center during their coming out experiences.

They're hoping the community will step up with them.

“If you want to make a difference in a young person's life that doesn’t have the means to help themselves, the center is a wonderful resource,” Gerace said.

The LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland will also be hosting a "Queer the Halls" event this weekend with lots of handcrafted goods for sale as part of Snow Day in Detroit Shoreway.

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