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ALTON - As the Alton Pride organization prepares for its Sept. 9 festival, they’re planning several events to garner funds and support.
“It’s not just about a one-day party,” Michael Paynic, the vice president of Alton Pride, said. “It’s all about giving back to our community. It’s all about teaching the children how to…be able to be themselves.”
The Alton Pride organization was started in 2018 by Paynic, current President Nicci Kincer and a few other devoted board members. Their original goal was to start an annual Pride event in Alton, which they fulfilled last year with an estimated 1,500–2,000 attendees.
As the organization has grown, they’ve expanded their sights to focus on local LGBTQ+ youth. They host a monthly youth group for high school students where teens can socialize, with a licensed therapist present as an extra resource. Alton Pride has seen how vital this support can be.
“They meet and play some games and talk to each other,” Paynic said. “It builds a bond and a connection with people that just want to be themselves.”
Eventually, Alton Pride hopes to open a community center, complete with crisis services, emergency housing and other resources for LGBTQ+ youth. But to make this happen — and to fund the second annual Pride celebration in September — they’re asking for the community’s help.
On July 21, Bubby and Sissy’s will host the Alton Pride Royalty Show to crown the next Alton Pride King and Queen. The King and Queen will represent the organization throughout the year at other community events. Contestants have raised money for Alton Pride, and there’s a suggested donation of $5 for attendees.
Another Alton Pride fundraiser will take place on August 11 during the regular drag show, a performance that Bubby and Sissy’s sponsors most weekends. The bar will also host a fundraiser on Sept. 21 for Metro East Pride of Southwestern Illinois, an LGBTQ+ organization in Belleville.
As Alton Pride expands its goals, the organization encourages businesses to reach out about sponsorship opportunities. Their meetings are open to anyone who might want to join the board or help with the Pride festival. Paynic said that the donors and volunteers have played a major role in the organization’s success so far, and they’re just getting started.
“We appreciate our community… and everybody that supports our group,” Paynic said. “Thank you so much.”
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