By Annette Billings
TOPEKA - In 2015 a small group of concerned Topekans met to discuss the idea of a community center to provide a safe space for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations. The results of a community needs survey had led them to believe the time had come for such a space to be created in Topeka.
The name chosen was Capitol City Community Center (CCEC). A board was formed with Stephanie Mott as president and Dan Brennan as executive director. As a result of fundraising efforts, the group was able to obtain designation as a 501(c)(3) organization. This development led to continued efforts to secure funds to purchase a building to house the center.
During this time the Planting Peace organization purchased the house next door to the Equality House in Topeka and painted it in the colors of the transgender pride flag. Both houses, the Equality House and the Transgender Pride House, are located across the street from Westboro Baptist Church.
Last November, Planting Peace generously donated the Transgender Pride House to serve as the location for CCEC. Work to prepare the house was undertaken by dedicated individuals from the community.
Fast forward to this past June 28. What began as an idea became a reality as the Capitol City Equality Center had a ribbon-cutting ceremony and opened its doors. The center’s opening makes it the third of its kind in Kansas and the first in Topeka.
Its mission is to provide an inclusive, safe environment for the LGTBQ community and its allies. It will also serve as an educational setting for anyone who is interested in learning more about issues affecting the LGBTQ community. Mott and Brennan emphasize the center’s availability is not limited to the LGBTQ community, but to all people who feel marginalized.
Plans for the center include a food bank, a clothing bank and ongoing assessments of community resources to develop strategies to fill any gaps. There will also be space for educational meetings on finding employment, living successfully in the community, self care, leadership skills, activism and advocacy. It will have a library with information related to the needs of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities. The library will also house a display of the LGBTQ history in Topeka and Shawnee County.
An excitement surrounds the opening of CCEC which is fueled by its commitment to be a place which will improve the lives of the LGBTQ community and other marginalized citizens. It serves as evidence of how the ideas of committed people can be transformed into reality. l