Creating Safe Spaces with Side by Side

The city of Richmond illuminates in June – not with streetlights, but rainbows.

An adopted symbol of the LGBTQ+ community and remembrance following the June 1969 Stonewall Riots, rainbows and Pride Month represent a variety of identities, acceptance, love and belonging. Yet, many youth still struggle with acceptance and support from family and friends.

Side by Side is a Richmond nonprofit that works to create safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ youth. With a variety of programs from providing necessities such as housing, food, and hygiene to counseling and support groups, it has provided a space where marginalized youth can thrive, not just survive, since 1991.

“We have been around for 33 years, mainly because our community is so reciprocal,” said Marquis Mapp, executive director of Side by Side. “Kids who come here grow up and become some of our highest donors and most supportive volunteers.”

The nonprofit’s history is exhibited though its lengthy and impressive resume. From offering its first college scholarship program only five years after starting, to expanding its programing to reach youth in Charlottesville, Side by Side is dedicated to making sure youth feel supported and loved through their journey into adulthood.

Side by Side’s growth has been impressive, and it shows no signs of stopping. Mapp even hinted that the organization is outgrowing its current space, and there are aspirations to have a facility and resources where youth can stay six days a week. Mapp also hopes for more opportunities to collaborate with other Virginia nonprofits and volunteers.

“Truly, they are the backbone of our organization,” Mapp emphasized. “It’s so influential for youth to see adult queer people living their best lives.”

The organization offers many volunteer options and is looking for year-round assistance, providing a great opportunity for queer individuals and allies to support their community. Currently the #YouAreLoved campaign is in full effect. With the goal of raising $25,000 to maintain its support group programs, those who wish to support can buy a shirt and support LGBTQ+ youth and Side by Side in style.

To learn more, visit its website, or follow it on Facebook and Instagram.

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