Blue Ridge Pride Launches Phase 1 of Virtual LGBTQ Center

Blue Ridge Pride launches a virtual LGBTQ Center to serve western North Carolina and nearby communities in Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Today, Blue Ridge Pride Center, Inc. launched its Phase 1 pilot of a virtual LGBTQ Center for western North Carolina and nearby communities in South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.  Says Executive Director, Tina Madison White, “This has been a couple of years in the making.  We have an estimated 35,000 people in western North Carolina who identify as LGBTQ.  In addition to facing the isolation brought on by local prejudice and ignorance, many face the isolation of geography.”

The goal of the virtual center is to create connective tissues for the WNC LGBTQ community.  While Blue Ridge Pride will manage the site, it has designed it for use and eventual guidance by community organizations, groups, and leaders.  It has also been designed to relate to our particular community.  Users can filter the calendar and directories to find groups and activities that aim particularly to appeal to them. People in need will be able to filter the list of community service providers to find welcoming legal, medical and other support.    “During Phase 1, our focus will be on growing the number of listers in order to maximize value to the community,” says Ms. White.  “We will also refine the website based on input from early adopters.  We are confident that they will have a lot of suggestions.”

Phase 1: Local Events, Directories & News Feeds

Phase 1 of the launch will focus on enabling community organizations, groups, and businesses to post information.  The initial roll-out features a Community Calendar and directories of Welcoming Groups, Welcoming Communities of Faith, and Welcoming Speakers and Facilitators. Subsequent releases will feature businesses and service providers who roll out the welcome mat to all. “We want to start with the people who are building and supporting our community”, says Ms. White. “In pulling together these databases, we have been delighted to find that there are a lot of welcoming organizations in our region.  They are easily drowned out by all the hate speech in the media.”   

The last step in Phase 1 will be to introduce a Community News Page that area organizations can post to.  It will start with simple announcements and news items – about upcoming events and fundraisers, new programs and opportunities.  Eventually, the organization plans to enable people to post editorial content.  “We need a space where members of our community can  share their experiences, concerns, and perspectives,” says Ms. White.  “But we want to get some experience and more community involvement in the site before doing this.  While we want to raise voices, we don’t want to go the way of so many media outlets today.  Frankly, there is misinformation and hate speech coming from all sides.  Blue Ridge Pride is intent on building a community together.  We want to create a big tent.”

Phase 2: Welcoming Community Pages

Phase 2 of the virtual center will introduce a portfolio of Welcoming Community Pages.  Examples include Welcoming Schools & Youth, Welcoming Workplaces, Welcoming Health & Health Care, Welcoming Seniors, Elders and Retirees, Welcoming Faith & Spirit, and Welcoming Families.  Each page will feature events, listings, resources and news relevant to that community.  It will draw on the content in the Phase 1 databases.  It will also draw on community input.  “Our hope,” says Ms. White, “is to establish small volunteer leadership teams to curate each of the pages.  They would be led by local community leaders working together.”

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who Can List?  Who Should List? Says Ms. White, “This will be a learning journey.  Frankly, we aren’t sure where we will draw lines.  We want to welcome all allies and other communities facing similar issues to join in this effort.  We want to include any organizations and businesses that truly welcome and support our community.  But we don’t want the core mission of the Virtual Community Center to get lost.  We’ll figure it out with the community.”
  • How is the Site Funded? The pilot has been funded from Blue Ridge Pride’s general program budget and from generous donations from corporate sponsors. “We couldn’t have done this without the funds provided by our major sponsors,” says Board President, Butch Thompson.  “We are very grateful for their support.”   
  • What Does it Cost to List?  Listings are free.  We expect to keep them free for non-profit organizations.  We encourage listers and users to support the site through donations.   Assuming the pilot is a success, we will seek grant money to scale and refine it.  
  • How to Volunteer?  Blue Ridge Pride will be establishing a network of Community Ambassadors from counties across the region to help to source listings and content for the Center.  Anyone interested in volunteering should email

Blue Ridge Pride Center, Inc.  (BRPC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit run by local volunteers.  Its members work to foster an inclusive community in western North Carolina, where people are embraced for who they are and feel welcomed to engage and contribute. Blue Ridge Pride Center manages four major programs: Community Events, Community Projects, the Blue Ridge Pride Community Partner Fund, and the WNC Virtual LGBTQ Center.

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Mental Health Providers

Eric Davis  MS, LCPA, NCC, Counselor

Willow Wellness and Recovery, PC 9 All Souls Crescent  Suite B, Asheville, North Carolina 28803  Phone: (828) 490-4137 | Website I am a firm believer in empowerment and self-determination. In the past, I have worked well with folks experiencing a range of issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance-use, sleep disturbances, relationship issues, and issues unique to the LGBT community.

Scott Thomas,  Licensed Professional Counselor, MA, LPC, LCAS

Silver Lining Therapy 70 Woodfin Place  STE 21, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (828) 705-3084 | Website I believe humor can be a powerful tool for healing and seek to incorporate this into our time together. Unique to my practice is an approach that truly puts you at the center of the counseling experience, and I draw from a wide variety of techniques to help you see and experience real change in your life. To see if therapy might be a good fit, I offer free phone consultations.

James Harrison, PhD Psychologist

12 Westridge Dr , Asheville, North Carolina 28803  Phone: (828) 348-6300 | Website I enjoy helping people achieve physical and emotional intimacy whether they are young or old, straight or gay, in healthy, responsible, and mutually affirming ways. I also enjoy helping people improve their earning and manage their assets. And I like working with older people. I offer free phone consultations.

Judy Maris, Counselor, LPC, LCPC, MA, MS

Maris Psychotherapy 41 Clayton St, Suite 301, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (828) 537-4489 | Website We can explore troublesome patterns that tend to repeat themselves in your life or look at new issues that have just come up. The important thing is for us to work together to get to the bottom of your difficulties and resolve them. I will assist you in becoming more aware of what you are feeling and thinking in the present moment. The untapped wisdom within you is a powerful healing force. Let me help you gain access to your full inner resources. I offer free phone consultations.

Elizabeth Heaney, Counselor, MA, LPC 

166 E Chestnut Street, Asheville, North Carolina 28801  Phone: (520) 447-3319 | Website I work with individual adults with concerns like: family history issues, relationship concerns, life satisfaction issues (related to jobs, living situations or relationships), anxiety and depression. I’ve had a particular focus on working with couples, addressing every aspect of relationship challenges – relationship dissatisfaction/boredom, affairs, sexual/intimacy issues, etc. And I was a civilian counselor on military bases for several years, so I have a clear understanding of the unique pressures and challenges facing service members and families. I offer free phone consultations.

Siljoy Maurer

Holistic Perspectives P.O. Box 333, Enka, NC 2872  Phone: (828) 333-0103  | or For many years now I have been mentoring men and women from all walks of life. It continues to be my greatest joy to accompany someone from “just being ok” into thriving! As a Mentor & Healer I partner with my clients in creating authenticity, wellness and deep contentment, in whatever area of their lives they are seeking change. The combination of giving very practical, livable tools for direct “next steps” while “holding the big picture” and then manifesting that big picture often feels like this: a new client brings me their life or life situation in a jigsaw puzzle box, they lost the lid and forgot what the picture on it looked like. I am good at knowing that picture and then guiding my clients/mentees to put all the puzzle pieces together.  

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