First LGBT community center opens in Lehigh Valley

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Adrian Shanker, founder and executive director, cuts the ribbon at the openign ceremony of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center on Saturday, April 9, 2016.The center is located in Allentown. (Courtesy of Adrian Shanker)

Adrian Shanker, the founder and executive director, cuts the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center on Saturday, April 9, 2016. The center is located in Allentown. (Courtesy of Adrian Shanker)

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article inaccurately portrayed the role Liz Bradbury and Patricia Sullivan had in the center’s opening. The individuals are leaders in the LGBT community, not the center’s founders. Also, a quote previously misattributed to Emma Strong has been editted to be correctly attributed to Adrian Shanker.

Located in downtown Allentown, the Bradbury-Sullivan Community Center serves to provide culture, education and health promotion programs, and direct services to strengthen and support the LGBT community across the Greater Lehigh Valley.

The center, which celebrated its grand opening April 9, was created in response to a growing LGBT community in the area and named in honor of LGBT community leaders Liz Bradbury and Patricia Sullivan.

Adrian Shanker, the executive director of the Bradbury-Sullivan Community Center, said he thinks the center is a great contribution to the Lehigh Valley. It’s a place for local members the LGBT community to have a place that is centered specifically around residents of Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon, Monroe and Berks counties. He said it provides a space that has been lacking for a long time.

Emma Strong, ’18, the president of Spectrum, said the volunteering process was great. She had the opportunity to sit down and eat dinner with one of the founders, Sullivan, to learn about what inspired the center and how it was made possible.

Strong said Shanker was key in the development of the center.

“Having a center in the Lehigh Valley is important because every LGBT community deserves an LGBT center,” Shanker said. “LGBT centers are places where LGBT people can come to get direct services and cultural cutting-edge (programs). I think its really it’s really important that we’re able to provide this.”

Strong said a group of seven Lehigh student volunteers went to the center the day before its opening to put together finishing touches before the grand opening. The students did a lot of painting as well as cleaning — small finishing touches, Shanker said.

Chelsea Fullerton, the director of the Pride Center, and a group of students and faculty went to the center to help set up. Fullerton said the Pride Center partnered with the Community Service Office last fall to prepare the Bradbury-Sullivan Center for its opening.

“All the service from Lehigh is based on community need,” Fullerton said. “Listening to the community and what they need, whether it’s volunteer, doing the heavy lifting, painting. Whatever the community needs going forward, Lehigh is willing to adapt and stay involved.”

Shanker said the center offers services within the health program, including a tobacco prevention, diabetes prevention, free HIV and STI testing, and alcohol abuse recovery groups, among other health service programs.

The cultural aspect of the center includes two art galleries and a library, as well as guest speakers.

“It’s been really great for me as a representative of the Pride Center, as well as a new resident to the Lehigh Valley, to be able to be a part of the creation of the first community center we will have in the Lehigh Valley,” Fullerton said. “I also think that it’s great for students who have been engaged in LGBT stuff at Lehigh that get to experience an LGBT service opportunity. That’s not really something that’s existed up until now.”

Shanker said having Lehigh involvement in the center has been great collaboration between Lehigh and the Center. Students helped with scraping glue off the floors and painting walls to make that grand opening possible.

The grand opening had a turnout of around 4,000 people.

“We certainly hope that our center is a place where LGBT students at Lehigh as well as staff and faculty members feel like they have place here at the center,” Shanker said. “And they can come to programs they might want to access off campus.”

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