East End’s First GLBT Center To Open At Sag Harbor’s Whalers’ Church This Summer

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The East End’s first center geared toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community—and particularly its youth, as well as its allies—is expected to open at the First Presbyterian Church of Sag Harbor, more commonly known as the Old Whalers’ Church, this summer.

The Long Island Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) Center of the Hamptons’s lease with the Union Street church starts on July 1, and the facility is expected to open soon after.

The Long Island GLBT Services Network, which announced the opening at its 20th anniversary gala up-island last week, sees it as a “springboard” to eventually open a stand-alone, state-of-the-art center, said David Kilmnick, the organization’s CEO.

Plans for the center include after-school programming, youth leadership programs, HIV and sexually transmitted infections prevention and testing programs, and volunteer opportunities, as well as health and social programs for seniors.

The network has long sought a “safe” spot on the East End, and its efforts gained urgency this past fall with the suicide of David Hernandez, a gay 16-year-old high school junior from East Hampton. Its two other centers are in Bay Shore and Garden City.

“It’s real critical. Ever since David Hernandez took his life, the urgency to move this along quicker was apparent,” Mr. Kilmnick said. “We are filling a gap on the East End that has existed forever, really, in terms of services and a full-time visible presence for the gay community.”

The network is looking to hire a full-time employee to run operations at the church center. The hours of operation have not yet been determined, but it is expected to be open both days and nights. Meanwhile, the network continues to collect funds for its own center, having raised $60,000 since December toward its $1 million goal.

The opportunity at the Old Whalers’ Church arose when its minister, the Reverend Mark Phillips, read a newspaper article about the network and its goal for a center, Mr. Kilmnick said.

“We’re very excited about providing space for these programs,” Rev. Phillips said last week, noting that his church has long opened its arms to community efforts. It also houses the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons, for example.

The GLBT Center, he said, will occupy rooms previously used by the Sag Harbor Youth Center, which merged with Youth Advocacy and Resource Development, or YARD, into the Youth Resource Center, to be housed at Pierson Middle/High School, the minister explained.

The GLBT center will make a monthly donation of an as-yet undetermined amount to the church in exchange for using the space, Rev. Phillips said.

The network has been involved in the East End schools for years, but having a place out here to call home is paramount, Mr. Kilmnick said.

“A GLBT center on the East End could have saved David Hernandez’s life,” he said in a prepared statement. “He would have had a safe place to turn to for support, advocacy and a center that would have given him a second home. Opening the GLBT Center of the Hamptons is something we must do for David and every GLBT young person and family on the East End, and it is something we must do now.”

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