Allentown organizations receive grant for LGBT youth empowerment program

Valley Youth House and the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center received a $250,000 grant today to start a professionally staffed LGBT youth-empowerment program in Allentown.

Called Project Silk Lehigh Valley, the program will provide daily after school activities for LGBT youth with an added goal of reaching LGBT youth of color for HIV intervention. The Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, at 522 W. Maple St., will host the program on the first floor. It’s expected to begin in early 2017.

The grant money comes from the HIV Prevention and Care Project, the funder of a similar program in Pittsburgh. That endeavor is also called Project Silk. Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan, said the Allentown organizations received permission to use the same name for the Lehigh Valley program.

“It seemed perfect for our community, a perfect fit,” Shanker said. “Through the idea of partnerships, we thought we could do something great for the Lehigh Valley.”

He added the program uses the expertise of Valley Youth House in empowering young people and providing emergency interventions, and Bradbury-Sullivan’s expertise in LGBT health and social services.

“This is the first time in the Lehigh Valley that there will be a daily, staffed LGBT program for youth outside school,” Shanker said.

He noted The Attic Youth Center creates a community for LGBT young people in Philadelphia. But for those who live outside the city, many LGBT youth feel like they’re the only ones in their schools. Running Project Silk Lehigh Valley will help LGBT youth build social connections and learn how to make choices about their health, Shanker said.

People interested in working at Project Silk Lehigh Valley can visit www.bradburysullivancenter.org or www.valleyyouthhouse.org.

Bradbury-Sullivan will hire one full-time and one part-time staffer, while Valley Youth House will have one adult position and some youth positions available.

The HIV Prevention and Care Project grant covers start-up expenses and the first year of operation costs for Project Silk Lehigh Valley. Shanker said he and his partners at Valley Youth House hope to explore options for further funding.