A year ago, Evan Melkersman had a dream. As someone who grew up gay in Boonville, he felt that the community lacked support and programs for LGBT youth.
One year ago, Melkersman started an LGBT alliance in the hopes of providing support for residents of Boonville both young and old.
“As someone who grew up in Boonville, I know that the resources for LGBT individuals are
limited,” Melkersman said. “Growing up, you feel that you’re the only person going through this.
We can make a positive impact on the lives of young people. With this alliance, I wanted to show how many of us there are and provide visibility.”
In January 2017, the Cooper County LGBT Alliance held its first meeting and about a dozen people showed up. These meetings are now a monthly occurrence for the group, and membership has grown.
“I had always had the idea in mind to develop an LGBT alliance, and I knew what I wanted it to look like,” he said.
The monthly meetings now attract about 20- 25 participants. The Alliance is largely composed
of high- school aged youth, but there are also members of all ages. Each meeting starts with food and time for socializing. From there, the advisory board for the Alliance will present a report. After that, the Alliance will go through team building and bonding activities to promote unity.
“We want to include everyone, not just LGBT individuals but allies and anyone with questions too, ” Melkersman said.
One of the first projects taken on by the Alliance was a sticker campaign aimed to increase LGBT visibility in the community. The advisory board for the Alliance designed a sticker the shape of Cooper County with the LGB
T pride rainbow. The board cautiously ordered 100 stickers at first. Within a week, all the stickers were accounted for. More than 20 businesses in Cooper County are displaying the stickers, and many more individuals are displaying them in their homes or on their vehicles.
“These stickers provide visibility and show young people and visitors to the town that our community supports LGBT people,” he said.
Next up on the agenda for the Cooper County LGBT Alliance is a proposal for nondiscrimination policies for the cities and counties.
“We’re continuing to grow and learn and expand,” Melkersman said. “We’re still pretty new, but really hoping that the Alliance will be a leader for LGBT progress in Cooper County.”