By Jeffrey Bash
The Unity Community Foundation, known as Comm.Unity, is a new organization coming in July that aims to provide counseling, education and organization for LGBTQ individuals in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.
Tim Bortner, current president of YSUnity, created the program with Marnie Cram, a master’s student in Health Counseling with a concern for the LGBTQ community.
“It’s important to note that our new Foundation is completely separate from YSUnity. Where YSUnity is a program for students here at YSU, our foundation will be based on helping the community as a whole,” Bortner said. “With our foundation we are working with the Mental Health Board of the State of Ohio to make sure we meet all qualifications the state has set forward for our organization.”of Ohio to make sure we meet all qualifications the state has set forward for our organization.”
The group is currently reaching out to politicians, community leaders and rights advocates to help bring a more organized approach for education and mental health resources.
“It’s really a huge project, I wasn’t aware of how much it would actually grow,” Bortner said. “We only publically launched two months ago, and now we already have mental health people in the community reaching out to us.”
Cram, a case manager in Trumbull county, said that she heard about the idea for Comm.Unity and knew she had to get involved in the organization.
“It’s hard to watch someone struggling, who cannot get the help that they need,” Cram said. “I believe this organization will help to bring the needed resources to the area and promote diversity.”
Cram said she thinks that communities around the U.S. are lacking outreach and hopes that Comm.Unity can serve as a model for community awareness, involvement, equality and comprehensive care.
Emily Coelho, a psychology student at Youngstown State University, is also heavily involved in Comm.Unity and other benefit groups like YSUScape and CityScape.
“I would like to see a change in the community, especially in regards to how the LGBT community is treated,” Coelho said. “It sickens me that they are not treated with equality that they deserve. The hate and fear I see on a daily basis due to prejudice is something I would like to see removed from the community.”
Comm.Unity’s first day in full operation will be on July 16, the day of the annual Pride of Youngstown Festival. Updates and more information can be found on Comm.Unity’s Facebook page and at their website, www.unitycommunityfoundation.org.