BALTIMORE (WJZ) — It’s known as the state’s heartbeat of the LGBTQ community, the Pride Center of Maryland.

The non-profit organization is a hub for helping to better the quality of life for sexual and gender minorities through care, services and creating a safe place for people.

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“I think that communities that have been experiencing depression or alienation, to finally have an oasis – a beautiful spot that makes them feel like ‘this is in my honor… this is for me,’” said interim CEO Cleo Manago.

For nearly a half century, the organization has been advocating for the LGBTQ community in the Baltimore area. Its name has changed over time, but now bears what Manago calls a more inclusive name: the Pride Center of Maryland.

Manago said he was brought on in recent years to help reshape the organization into one that properly represents Baltimore in terms of diversity and inclusion.

“A lot of people, when they hear LGBTQ, they assume there’s this big rainbow of everybody, no,” explained Manago. “To reverse the impact of that alienation and to create a space that’s inclusive and conducive to transformation and self-care, you have to make sure that there’s representation.”

With about 40 staff members ready to help the community, the non-profit is preparing to expand its services in a new location on Saint Paul Street.

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The multi-use space will continue the center’s work, but with a bigger vision and operating place, according to Senior Director Tramour Wilson.

Services and care will include self-defense classes, a computer lab, mental health care, activities for children, tutoring, outreach for suicide prevention, homelessness care and workforce development for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

“It’s been developed around professional development so helping them find a job, helping them find employment, helping them find housing and access to hormones, access to a better style of living for them,” Wilson said.

Services are also offered outside of the facility, which includes cultural sensitivity training. Visit Baltimore recently completed the training and is sharing the knowledge with hotels, attractions and restaurants during Pride Month and especially Baltimore Pride, when thousands are expected to celebrate in the city this weekend.

The center puts on the city’s annual Pride events, including a parade. The celebration is back this year with the theme “Together Again,” recognizing this is the first time the event has been held in-person since 2019.

“We really want to maximize and really bring this city to the highlight that it deserves,” Wilson said.

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The new Pride Center location on Saint Paul Street opens in July.

Cristina Mendez