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Advocate | Educate | Celebrate

The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center

The LOFT promotes advocacy, education and the celebration of all, including but not limited to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer+ (LGBTQ+) community; Latinx community (a person of Latin American origin or descent (or used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary alternative to Latino or Latina); and Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community. ACME has supported this nonprofit through its GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program.

Tell us about The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center.

The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center stands by its mission that innovation is essential. We strive to advocate, educate and celebrate in its simplest form.

Our Center was born in 1983. The beginning started as a hotline for AIDS. People, gay men primarily, who might have suspected they were infected with HIV, could call that hotline and receive anonymous and discreet assistance. Since it started in an actual loft space and to be cautious, the organization was named The LOFT.

Forty years later, we are a robust center that is helping thousands of members of the LGBTQ+ community with a wide array of support services, such as social activities and really fun, amazing yearly events.

What services do you supply to the community?

At our core, we offer support services across an intersection of identities that encompass the LGBTQ+ spectrum. The level of services and support we offer is broad across all ages.

Our support groups are the bedrock of what we offer. The LOFT provides GBTQ+ men’s and women’s LBTQ+ support groups. We also have trans support services and a variety of other services that interplay between the intersection of identities. There are also groups for the Latinx community and our BIPOC community. The LOFT believes in creating community through these services so folks can get help, support and a sense of place and space. They can be with others just like themselves and share whatever’s going on in their mind.

Our support groups are the bedrock of what we offer…The LOFT believes in creating community through these services so folks can get help, support and a sense of place and space.

Then beyond that, we provide a litany of services related to testing for STIs and HIV and supportive services for intimate partner violence and assault, including connections to legal services. If you want to change your name, you can contact us, and we can link you to that. If someone wants to begin transition services, The LOFT can connect you to those. Referral services are provided; if you want to find an LGBTQ+-affirming medical physician or therapist, call us, and we will help you.

The LOFT likewise prides itself on a wide variety of social activities and events. In Westchester County, we’re fortunate to live in such an LGBTQ+-supported and -empowered place. We have many allies at the state, county and city levels. Many of the elected officials are some of our biggest cheerleaders, which speaks to a lot of what we do now through offering social activities. Many folks don’t necessarily need particular support or legal protections, but they still want community. We have LOFT Families, which are for LGBTQ+ families headed by same-sex couples or trans couples who have children. And our social activity groups span a wide range of interests. We have adventure hiking and rock-climbing groups, art groups, writer workshops and so much more. If you’re looking to develop yourself in a particular way, you can find a community of folks here.

As far as events go, annually, we host Westchester Pride, which is the mecca of LGBTQ+ events and holidays. We host the Trans Forum, a conference of ideas-makers and change-makers speaking to subjects pertinent to the transgender nonconforming and non-binary. We also have a yearly gala. So, we have it all. We’re very proud of the work that we do here. We have a staff of 10 who are in constant overdrive and give 110% of themselves daily.

What sets you apart from other nonprofits in your community?

We want folks to know that LGBTQ+ Community Centers are the beating heart of any local LGBTQ+ community. Often, national organizations get a lot of attention. And those groups do phenomenal and powerful work to protect and move the community forward.

But, locally, it’s the LGBTQ+ Centers that are there every single day helping folks, whether it’s someone in a state of crisis because they’ve been kicked out of their home, subject to discrimination or experiencing harassment. It can be endless for people, and we are here to face it daily with them.

What honestly differentiates us from others is the beating heart of joy, resilience and strength and that our LGBTQ+ Community Center speaks specifically to our community in ways that other service-oriented organizations may not. As a community center, we make sure that we’re constantly finding different ways to build these individual bonds with our community members.

Please tell us a story about your organization that clearly illustrates your good work.

In our senior care program, we have a lot of elderly who are very much alone and isolated. Perhaps their partner or spouse passed on, and they’re left alone. Many of our elder generations may not be connected to their biological families because, back in the day, homophobia was a lot more legitimized. This caused our senior community to lose touch with their biological communities.

The Community Center is the psychological anchor that keeps them connected. It allows them to make friends and crucial connections with folks their age and other generations within our community. Intermingling with young adults will enable them to learn about all the different things happening in the breadth of our culture. This is a heartening and powerful thing to see. The LOFT takes an active interest in ensuring that our seniors are cared for and feel loved and validated.

As a society, ageism is a significant issue. We are a very youth-obsessed culture in general. And unfortunately, that extends to the LGBTQ+ community as well. Having a community center that understands the needs of our elders is incredibly important, and we’re so proud to have our Silver Connections program that fosters a loving and caring community.

What is your most outstanding achievement or contribution to the community?

2022 was a real whammy! Not only were we dealing with the ravages of COVID, but there was a precarious scare for the LGBTQ+ community when Roe vs. Wade was overturned, and explicit threats were made that our rights were next.

Then came the Mpox disease, a scary, awful disease heavily affecting gay and trans men. This disease had the potential to be a full-blown nightmare. Here in Westchester, we immediately mobilized and began partnering with the community. We held nine inoculating clinics from July to September, making over 900 inoculations for a high-risk population. We were able to blunt the infection rate.

The LOFT played a direct and impactful role in this achievement. We truly showed up and worked with our Westchester County Department of Health partners to deliver the solution. The fact that The LOFT was one of the first community centers in the nation to host a Mpox clinic is something we are deeply proud to have accomplished.

What do you want people to know about The LOFT?

In 2023, we want everyone to know that The LOFT physical campus is wide open. We love having people at the Center. There’s something magical about people coming in and hanging out at their cyber center or having a cup of coffee and chatting in a group.

Whatever you need, we are here, and we’d love to see you.

When we host physical events, they are unique and so much fun. There is a charm to being in groups again and laughing, building an art project or talking about an important issue. Whenever you get a chance to build community in person, there’s an absolute delight. Whatever you need, we are here, and we’d love to see you.  

How are you using the funds you’ve received from the ACME GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program?

The LOFT has over 102 programs, services and events. When you mix them all together, it’s this never-ending calendar of things to do. The funds from the ACME GIVE BACK WHERE IT COUNTS Reusable Bag Program went directly into supporting all that.

We are grateful for ACME’s support because every bit plays an important role. Our community is in need; we are constantly building. For the first time in human history, we have five concurrent LGBTQ+ generations that can live out as they are without being suppressed or institutionalized in some form. This has never happened in modern history.

The support we get from institutions like ACME plays a critical and vital role in helping make sure that we’re meeting the needs of every single group within our community. We provide programs to three-year-olds expressing themselves in gender-nonconforming ways, or what we refer to as gender-expansive ways. Then on the other end, we have 80-year-olds who need a host of other services, and then the generations in between.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

The LOFT LGBTIQ+ Community Center is here for everyone who identifies within our community. We offer social activities and annual events, all designed around our mission to advocate, educate and celebrate. We are here to support you.

We really do believe in the LGBTQ+ community. As a community center, we view ourselves as empowering each of our members to make them the most amazing people they can be. Having a place and space in a larger society allows us to offer tremendous value.

Jeffrey Guard is Director of Marketing & Communications for The LOFT LGBTQ+ Community Center.

Published February 14, 2023.