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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — North Star LGBTQ Community Center in Winston-Salem is a place where the community can come and just be.

North Star opened in 2012 and for director Nyles Claire Suer, it’s personal.

“Being queer, that’s the word I use, it has been one of the most incredible parts of my life, ” Suer said. “It’s really enriched my life in a way that I can’t even imagine being divorced from that part of my identity. But it can also be really hard. It can be lonely and it can be really stigmatized.”

North Star is a safe space for people like Jesse Wolfe, a senior at Mount Tabor High School. Here, they’ll find resources and services; and just as important, fellowship.

“It’s important because it allows people to connect with other youth who are LGBT and be able to feel supported,” Wolfe said.

Board chair George Keller Dukes says the center is a huge step for progress.

“I remember growing up here in Winston-Salem and there wasn’t a resource like this, and when I was a teenager, it was a very scary thing to be gay then.”

The center has a number of draws, including a library, educational classes, support groups and HIV testing and counseling.

The Winston Salem Foundation supported North Star with a $7,000 Community Grant in 2017 and a $10,000 Community Grant in 2018, both to support a part-time center manager.