The newly formed organization Pride in GC is working to amplify small-town pride in Grove City with the area’s first-ever Pride event coming to town for a weekend-long celebration starting on September 30.
Pride in GC President David Donofrio noticed last year that Columbus and its surrounding suburbs were hosting their own Pride events, but Grove City wasn’t a part of the action. After conversations with some friends, Donofrio decided that needed to change for the 41,000-person suburb that sits less than 10 miles southwest of Columbus.
Pride in GC formed earlier in 2022 and recently was incorporated as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization to not only exist as an official entity but to also be able to advocate for important issues within the LGBTQ+ community.
“We already spoke out in support of a non-discrimination ordinance for city employees in Grove city, as well as the creation of a Diversity Advisory Task Force and we’re now pushing for the city to apply that non-discrimination ordinance to all citizens,” Donofrio said.
Pride in GC’s upcoming weekend of events starts on Sept. 30 with a block party, tagging onto the Grove City on Broadway nights that already take place on Fridays. The event will feature food trucks, beverages (within the city’s Designated Outdoor Recreation Area) and businesses staying open for the evening.
“[Friday night] is really going to be just a great opportunity for everyone to get together and celebrate informally,” he said.
Saturday kicks off with a drag brunch at 11 a.m, followed by an event that Pride in GC is calling “The Passport.” There will be various businesses and organizations set up with activities, discounts, and events. Participants are meant to travel around from business to business to choose their own adventure..
Following the Passport events, Pride participants will gather in the evening for a picnic and resource fair at Windsor Park.
At the resource fair, Pride in GC Vice President Pam Gatewood said there will be information from community programs for LGBTQ+ youth that focus on addressing mental and physical health, as reaching youth is a large part of Pride in GC’s mission.
On Sunday, Bethel Lutheran Church will be dedicating its Sunday Service to supporting LGBTQ+ people. Prior to the service, there will be an hour-long open house with coffee and donuts, where people can come in and discuss any issues between the LGBTQ+ community and the church that may be on their minds.
Donofrio said Pride in GC’s contact at Bethel Lutheran Church, Pastor Ray, is extremely passionate about the longstanding issues between the church and the LGBTQ+ community and encourages everyone to come to the open house hour with whatever emotions they want to bring.
“He said, ‘I understand the struggles that LGBTQ+ people have faced in the church,’ And he said, ‘If you need to talk to me, even if you want to scream in my face and get your emotions out, you can. This is a safe place to do that,’” Donofrio said. “And I just thought that was really powerful and I’m so excited that they signed on as a partner.”
In planning the weekend, Donofrio said Pride in GC has been very intentional with its plans to ensure there are different events for anyone who attends.
“There will be options that are adult-oriented and then there will be options that are family-oriented,” he said. “We really just want to showcase through all of these events that our community is a spectrum. It is welcoming to everybody and there are options for everyone to feel comfortable.”
With it being the first Pride event in Grove City, Gatewood said they’re not sure what to expect. But, Pride in GC knows it wants to continue growing and evolving as an organization.
“As the year goes by, we can continue to have community events and then next year’s Pride weekend will be even bigger,” she said. “We’re not just going to do the weekend stuff. We want to continue to have things where people can gather and advocate for legislation. There are a lot of levels to [Pride in GC].”
Grove City is often seen as one of the more conservative suburbs around Columbus. However, both Gatewood and Donofrio said the response to the upcoming Pride event has been very positive.
“It’s been really humbling and I think Grove City has been ready for a while,” Donofrio said. “We’ve had a number of people in the community come to us and say, ‘I’ve wanted to start something like this, but I’ve kind of felt like maybe I’m standing alone.’ And they’re really excited to join on and become a part of this with us.”
Pride in GC is completely volunteer-run and all the ideas for the weekend of events came directly from Grove City residents. Donofrio wants to encourage anyone to reach out who has ideas for future events or wants to be part of the organization. The organization is open to anyone within the limits of the Southwestern City School District, which extends beyond Grove City to areas like Westland and Galloway.
“I think what we’re doing that weekend is going to inform the community that we’re even here. There may be people who need support and don’t know that we’re a mile down the road,” Gatewood said. “What I’m seeing in Grove City with this organization is that they’re not afraid to make themselves known that we’re here. Not just for a weekend, but we’re here for the whole year.” 🔥