The center is still an integral part of the city’s library but it is no longer under the umbrella of the Circle of Friends (COF) non-profit group, said Daniel Hodge, a founding chairperson of the center who now serves as a board member.
The mission of the COF is to promote literacy and make money by selling donated books, said Manager Marilyn Field in a Gabber story dated October 18, 2017. The funds mostly go toward programs for children, special reading areas and authors who speak to groups of all ages.
“The COF was really smart looking ahead at what might best serve the needs of the Gulfport community when they started the center in October of 2014 because of a donation of LGBTQ books,” said Gore. “The center opened to the public in 2015.”
Now, the center has more than 4,000 media such as books and DVDs in addition to regular monthly programming that includes movies and a book club. Speakers are also scheduled on a frequent basis.
The center has grown to be so much broader in scope than the COF, said Gore.
“We felt like we had enough strength on our side to handle our own affairs without needing oversight by another entity,” said Hodge. “Over the years, we felt very supported by COF. They’ve been fantastic.”
The Center’s Purpose
The center “exists to create a welcoming communal space for the LGBTQ population of Gulfport and Pinellas County,” said Gore. “We also want to advance a sense of awareness and advocacy for that community and it’s really about creating community. We’re there to support the community and the library.”
On May 7, when U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-FL 13th District announced that the library had won the 2019 National Medal for Museum and Library Service award, he noted the library is nationally recognized for its LGBTQ Resource Center – the only one of its kind in the state of Florida.
The center “provides incredible educational opportunities to community members of all backgrounds,” said Crist.
• “We will have members and dues, which have not been determined, yet,” said Gore. In June, opportunities will be announced as another way to support the library.
• Special programming that occurs during Gay Pride month in June will continue with additions like National Coming Out Day on October 11, transgender awareness during the second week in November and World AIDS Day on December 1.
• Also new in 2019 is the introduction of what will become an annual $1,000 academic scholarship, said Gore. “The scholarship is a way for the center to give back to the community.”
To find out more about what the center is planning and sponsoring, visit mygulfport.us/lgbtq-resources.
Soon, the center will also have its own website, said Gore.
“Our growth as an organization has been phenomenal,” said Hodge.