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First pride celebration is coming to 5 Cities 

A local organization is creating a Pride festival in the Five Cities area and a community for LGBTQ-plus youth.

Established in 2016, 5 Cities Hope is a nonprofit that provides an inclusive environment for the LGBTQ-plus community—including youth, allies, and people of all ages and backgrounds—to connect.

The nonprofit has been working with the community since last year to create the first Pride celebration for the Five Cities area slated for June 1 at Heritage Square Park in Arroyo Grande.

Erica Andrade, director of the nonprofit, said the celebration will be small for this first year, but it won't fall short on fun for everyone in the family.

On the event's itinerary, she said, is a resource fair that focuses on LGBTQ-plus, mental health, churches, local entertainment, a youth lounge with arts and crafts, and food vendors.

Andrade said it's been a long and important process to put the event together, as the nonprofit has held committee meetings to understand what the community wants to see at its Pride celebration.

"This isn't something that we as an organization have just been doing and say, 'Here you go; we're making a Pride for you.' We really have gotten a lot of input from the community," she said.

Denise Aguilar, Hope's co-chair, said creating this nonprofit and celebration is fulfilling a need for LGBTQ-plus youth in the area. A majority of the people who participate in the nonprofit's events are middle school or high school aged with little to no access to transportation.

Aguilar said when she was growing up in Nipomo, it was hard for her to attend any LGBTQ-plus support groups because the nearest resource was in San Luis Obispo.

"It was a two-hour bus ride, and transportation in Nipomo was hard because there was only three bus stops and they were far away from the residential areas of the city," Aguilar said.

Creating the nonprofit was a no-brainer for Aguilar and Andrade as both said they've created a place for youth to talk about themselves, support one another, and for parents to come with any questions they have. According to Lucia Mar Unified School District's results of the California Healthy Kids Survey, 1 percent of seventh and ninth graders and 2 percent of 11th graders identified as gay or lesbian; 4 percent of seventh graders and 5 percent of ninth and 11th graders identified as bisexual.

The nonprofit has created a GoFundMe page to raise money for the Pride Celebration. As of press time, it had raised $1,415 out of its $5,000 goal. Δ

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