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Paducah LGBT Welcome Center Opens, With Plans For Regional Outreach

Liam Niemeyer

  LGBTQ community members held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in downtown Paducah on Tuesday after months of planning to open a LGBTQ-oriented resource center. 


The Paducah LGBT Welcome Center, which staff claim is the second organization of its kind in Kentucky, aims to provide educational and social services to LGBTQ people in the city and throughout west Kentucky. The Louisville LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce opened earlier this year


For Welcome Center Director of Operations Dustin Havens, who also coordinated the recent West Kentucky Pride Festival, he hopes the center helps bring regional LGBTQ people together, particularly to help with the isolation some LGBTQ people sometimes feel. 


“It’s all about the outreach and making people know that they’re not alone, Havens said. “Paducah, western Kentucky is on to something. We have the support. We have the future. We have the drive, and it sets a challenge out to the other cities. It sets a challenge out to Lexington, to Frankfort, to get on board.”

Havens said the center plans to offer up to 42 different LGBTQ-oriented classes and programs by January, with about 12 classes will be operational by the end of the month. Topics of these classes include fighting HIV stigma, and social care for transgender people.

Welcome Center Director of Administrative Affairs Elizabeth Duarte said not only is the center trying to reach out to LGBTQ-friendly businesses and people, but also create a dialogue with those who might not be as accepting of LGBTQ people.  

Credit Liam Niemeyer / WKMS
Elizabeth Duarte (right) handing out shirts at the center.

  “We’re not trying to change anybody. We’re trying to get you to understand,” Duarte said. “We want to reach out to businesses and say ‘will you offer your services to the LGBTQ community?’ And then we can spread the word and say ‘this company will help you out.’” 


Duarte said the center’s services could range from helping refer LGBTQ people to social services or helping people craft resumes to look for jobs. The center also plans to launch a thrift shop and a daycare center by February. 


"Liam Niemeyer is a reporter for the Ohio Valley Resource covering agriculture and infrastructure in Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia and also serves Assistant News Director at WKMS. He has reported for public radio stations across the country from Appalachia to Alaska, most recently as a reporter for WOUB Public Media in Athens, Ohio. He is a recent alumnus of Ohio University and enjoys playing tenor saxophone in various jazz groups."
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