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Peoria's first LGBTQ+ community center is opening soon

(From left to right) Ch
Camryn Cutinello
FFrom left to right, Chris McLaurin, Deric Kimler, Trevor Neff and Selena Pappas from Central Illinois Friends in the lobby of their new headquarters and LGBTQ+ community center.

Central Illinois Friends is moving to a new headquarters that also will also serve the area’s first LGBTQ+ community center.

The new center at 2112 E. War Memorial Drive will offer a health clinic, a library of LGBTQ+ history and community space for anyone to use.

“The idea is to not just be a community center for the LGBTQ,” said Deric Kimler, executive director for Central Illinois Friends, “but show our non-LGBTQ+ individuals there's nothing to fear and that there's a space that they can call home ... and a community center that they can be allies, and we can hopefully create ally ship by inviting people here.”

Central Illinois Friends currently operates three health clinics in downtown Peoria, Bloomington-Normal and Galesburg. The clinics offer sexual health care, HIV testing and gender-affirming care.

The new facility will offer similar services. Kimler said they are partnering with Carle Hospital and the University of Illinois College of Medicine to provide hormone replacement therapy (HRT), counseling and LGBTQ+ primary care services.

Kimler said the organization has grown rapidly over the past few years. He said Illinois is a safe haven for members of the LGBTQ+ community in the Midwest, and that many members of the community are moving to central Illinois.

“Illinois as a state has some of the highest protections on the books for LGBTQ+ individuals in the entire country,” Kimler said. “And when you're surrounded by a bunch of states that aren't, and are actively politically attacking people for who they are, you're seeing an increase of people moving to those areas.”

Kimler said the center will be a place for them to find services and create a community.

“We're building a place and space for people to feel like they can be here,” Kimler said. “Whether it's non-LGBTQ+ individuals who have kids who are or are friends, it matters when you are seeing and being seen as half the battle.”

Kimler said they have had conversations about security concerns at their facilities and events, and that there will be extensive security at the new location.

The center will open this fall and will begin offering their health services next year.

Camryn Cutinello is a reporter and digital content director at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@illinoisstate.edu.