A new LGBT welcome center opens in St. Petersburg

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A new welcome center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender residents is opening Friday evening in St. Petersburg. It will be a gathering place for people who might not have many options of a safe place to go.

The new LGBT welcome center is housed in an early 20th century bungalow along the historic Grand Central District of Saint Petersburg. It’s only the 3rd of its kind in the US; Miami and Seattle have similar centers. Chris Rudisill, Director of LGBT Programs with Metro Wellness and Community Centers, emphasized it’s much more than just a tourist information center.

Christ Lanitis uses the center as a meeting place for his book club. He says since it’s near local high schools, it will provide a needed service to LGBT youth.

Some would say that St. Pete has already evolved into a gay friendly city. Rhonda Muscate, a volunteer at the center, moved 2 months ago to St Pete from Michigan and agrees. Still, she thinks the center serves a bigger purpose.

LGBT Community Center Services director Chris Rudisill said future plans include expanding outreach to both youth and elderly within LGBT community. Another import function of the center will be cultural and sensitivity training.

The ribbon cutting ceremony with St. Pete mayor, Rick Kriseman begins at 6:00 p.m. Friday evening. The address is 2227 Central Avenue.