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Full Spectrum full of pride

YOUNGSTOWN — An organization started in Youngstown continues to grow.

What began in 2016 as a group meeting that would rotate at members’ homes, Full Spectrum Community Outreach Center then moved to St. John Episcopal Church.

Now, the center is located at 660 W. Earle Avenue, at the Hope House Visitation Center.

Founded by Tim Bortner, Payton Cram and Emily Coelho, the organization provides a variety of services for the LGBTQIA+ community.

LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer / questioning, intersex, asexual and plus, which refers to anyone not listed in the acronym.

The purpose of Full Spectrum, which is a nonprofit, is to provide a range of support for the LGBTQIA+ community while promoting inclusivity in the Mahoning Valley.

There’s a volunteer staff of nine people running the Full Spectrum Community Outreach Center, Justin Kalinay, community engagement director, said.

Funding of the nonprofit is primarily from sponsorships and donations, Kalinay said, adding the winter gala and Pride are the largest fundraising events. The organization also applies for grants.

SUPPORTING THE COMMUNITY

Full Spectrum’s Hope House Visitation Center offers meeting spaces, meal spaces and the Closet of Change. The Closet of Change offers donated clothing, makeup, wigs and accessories to help people as they explore their gender and expression, Kalinay said.

Nonperishable food and medical and toiletry items are also available at the Closet. Clothing, food, furniture and other necessities are all donated, he said.

The center has free peer support group meetings, held monthly on the first and third Mondays of the month. The group that meets on the first Monday is for those 18 years old and younger. Adults, ages 18 and over meet on the third Monday.

Groups are led by client care coordinators, teaching life skills, college and career counseling and job placement.

Members can receive referrals for mental health issues, too, and case management will offer referrals for homelessness, medical services, domestic violence and substance abuse.

A monthly series, Safe Space Training, with rotating topics is offered.

Training meetings happen the first or second Thursday each month, from 10 a.m. to 1p.m.

With the range of services Full Spectrum offers, it does stay objective with politics.

“We want to stay neutral. We have gone to Youngstown City Council with the purpose of being the ear to the ground, ‘We’re here, we’re queer and we are here to help,'” Kalinay said.

Working on being the best organization it can be, Full Spectrum offers a community impact survey through its website, Kalinay said.

All of the opportunities have been met with open arms by the local LGBTQIA+ community, Kalinay said.

“Between the Closet of Change and our case management and referral program we served over 300 self-identified LGBTQIA+ folks in 2023, and attendance at both our peer support groups and our community-raising events has increased over the last year,” he said.

It hasn’t been without challenges, though.

“We have faced, and continue to face, our fair share of social media trolls, hate speech and protestors,” Kalinay said.

Even though the organization steers away from politics, this year the protesting has been heightened due to “the anti-LGBTQ+ religious and political climate,” Kalinay said.

Organizers and members still have a positive outlook. “We do not believe this represents the majority of the Mahoning Valley community,” Kalinay said.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

There are developments on the horizon for Full Spectrum.

Today is the fifth annual Pride in the Valley in Courthouse Square in downtown Warren.

One of the partnerships for the parade is the group Queer Greeters, “who have been trained by Mahoning Valley Queer Action and who patrol Pride in The Valley, Pride Youngstown and Columbiana County Pride,” Kalinay said.

The group greets, coordinates and acts as conflict mediators, trained in de-escalation and first aid. They’ll walk the parade and direct traffic and function “as a buffer against” protesters, Kalinay said.

Full Spectrum is looking at growing its impact in other ways, too.

On the South Side of Youngstown, a Transitional Homeless Shelter is expected to open sometime in 2025.

According to Full Spectrum, the shelter will be the first of its kind within a 40-mile radius of the Valley. Kalinay added it will accommodate three individuals or families at one time.

Office hours are by appointment only. The website states that the location is on the WRTA bus route.

For more information about services and events offered by Full Spectrum Community Outreach, call 330-718-1859 or visit www.fullspectrumcommunityoutreach.org.

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