Word has, apparently, gotten out on the street that the Queens Pride House is the place to be, and despite the name, guests don’t have to be gay to stop by. Everyone is welcome.
On Friday night an open house was held, ostensibly to introduce the new executive director, but the reception turned into an all-out celebration of the borough’s diversity. On hand to welcome Silvia Dutchevici to the helm were gays and straights, the old and the young, whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians.
“It’s an exciting night,” Dutchevici said. “It’s a beginning to create a vibrant community center in Queens. We hope Queens Pride House will be a focal center. We want to get the community involved, with something for everyone.”
The organization, which strives to create a safe and nurturing space for all, offers social services and referrals in counseling, youth services, substance abuse, immigration, employment, health care and legal assistance.
QPH, officially known as the LGBT Center of Queens — for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered — announced Dutchevici’s appointment on Oct. 3.
Located on the second floor of 76-11 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, QPH last year maintained six monthly discussion groups and, overall, outreached to nearly 5,000 individuals.
“In November, we will have a community meeting to discuss pursuit interests. We want to be sure to meet the needs of LGBT in Queens,” Dutchevici said.
While intermingling and chowing down on Filipino Chicken Adobo, Indian Samosas, Thai Satee, Ecuadorian Ceviche, and other dishes representative of the borough’s constituency, members of the Board of Directors and other celebrants at the event, which was free and open to the public, sang the organization’s praises and expressed optimism for its future.
“It’s good to have a party and invite the whole community and let them know what we’re doing. It shows that we’re here,” said Kevin Wehle, the QPH coordinator of volunteers.
Frank De Luque, facilitator of a Spanish group that meets in the space twice a month, said, “We feel very good here. We meet with people who share sexual orientation, language and culture.”
Surveying the room, board member Kleber Jalon said, “This is a good representation of who we are in Queens.”
Toni Oliviero, attending her first QPH event, along with her companion of “25 years and a little,” said, “It’s an amazing organization. We’ve lived in Jackson Heights. But I had no idea it would be so full of so many different kinds of people. It’s my first experience but not my last.”
Ecuadorian transplant Manuel Zuniga, who has lived in this country for over 40 years, currently in Brooklyn, said, “The services they provide here they don’t have anywhere else ... legal, immigration, health. I mingle with Hispanics from all over Queens here. Whenever I come here, I always learn something I can share with my friends. If we Hispanics don’t get involved, we won’t find out about a lot of free services.”
Board President Pauline Park was pleased with Dutchevici’s appointment, saying, “She has a fantastic background, broad and deep, in areas that are crucial for the work of Queens Pride House. Being an immigrant, she understands the needs of immigrants. She has a good deal of managerial experience.”
Similarly, board Treasurer Charles Ober said, “She’s very committed to the people we serve. Her whole career has been devoted to people on the margins of life. She has worked with people who were abused and traumatized. She has a lifelong commitment to the least and best of us, bringing us all up and bringing us all together. It’s part of who she is.”
Born in Romania, the new executive director, a psychotherapist in private practice, was director of crisis shelters at Sanctuary For Families, where she oversaw the clinical and administrative supervision of shelter staff. She holds Masters’ degrees in social work from New York University and in psychology from the New School For Social Research.
“As a social worker, I’ve seen LGBT clients. It’s an issue that’s very personal to me. We want equal rights for everyone,” Dutchevici said. “We’re still second-class citizens.”
To get involved with the center, which is looking for volunteers and interns who are willing to share their skills and talents in all areas of the organization, or just for further information, call (718) 429-5309.