Finding Our PRIDE after COVID – by Maggie Johnson

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Community – Every day when I go into work, that’s what I see above my head. One word to represent all of the many layers of everyday life in Manassas Park. Here at the Manassas Park Community Center we pride ourselves on being a safe space for our youth. This includes ALL of our youth. Since the summer of 2019, we have had a program supporting the LGBTQ+ members of our community. It started with a reoccurring summer event that quickly became a welcomed part of every other Friday’s routine.

Sadly, with the outbreak of COVID-19, that bi-weekly routine became what seemed like a distant memory. As the Community Center shut down, we realized we had to adapt if we wanted to continue to be the place for our youth to find that sense of belonging, so we looked to online alternatives. We struggled through platforms and technical difficulties. We shared everything from frustrations to laughs. In the midst of a global pandemic, we were able to once again find that sense of community. Through online programming, we were able to be in contact with kids as far as California, which allowed us to remove all the limitations of geographical communities.

As things are beginning to reopen and we look towards a brighter future, we can take the lessons we learned throughout the pandemic and use it to ensure that we continue to take advantage of our online reach. As of this past Friday, June 4, 2021, we had our first successful hybrid LGBTQ+ Youth Friday where we not only had our online community join us but we got to see smiling faces in person for the first time in over a year! It was a gift. To all of our LGBTQ+ community, online and in person alike, the Manassas Park Community Center will always have a space for you because we are all a part of this community, and each and every piece of that community is important.

If you have already joined us for our meetings and are returning, we look forward to seeing you again! If you are a new friend that has stumbled upon our blog, we meet every other Friday at 7:00pm. Our next meeting is Friday the 17th, join us in person (Masks are strongly recommended if you are not vaccinated) or online (sign up for the remind notifications to get the link the week of by texting “mpcclgbtq” to 81010) We look forward to seeing you!

Maggie Johnson is the Recreation Leader for the Office of the Teens for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. They can be reached at (703) 335-8872 or via email at M.Johnson@manassasparkva.gov.

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