A Huntsville man has been honored for his public service to GLBT youth in the mid-South region.

James Robinson was selected as one of five winners for the first-ever Launch Pad contest (http://launchpad.encore.org), which aims to help people over age 45 turn creative ideas for solving problems in their communities into working solutions.

Robinson, executive director of GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc.,  is working to prevent homelessness and provide independent living services to GLBT youth. GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc. was founded by Robinson in 2009, responding to a need for supporting GLBT people as they struggle with coming to terms with their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Robinson, a gay man who admittedly struggled with his own coming out, is quick to express his gratitude towards staff and supporters for their dedication to the cause.

"Through GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc., I am able to be part of an incredible group of volunteers who work to provide positive opportunities for social development and support to members of the GLBT community regardless of age," he says. "The development of this program is an incredible journey and I am thankful every day that I am alive to have the opportunities that are presented to me each day."

A parent’s legal responsibility in Alabama ends when a child turns 18, even though a person is not considered a contractual adult in the state until age 19. That means lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered youth can be forced out of their homes at age 18 but are unable to sign a lease until they are 19. In the largely-conservative South, the challenge of targeting GLBT youth is far greater.

"The biggest challenge that we face so far is reaching these young members of our community," Robinson says. "In this area the gay community is very hidden. There are almost no evident signs of ‘gay community’ especially that would appeal to teenagers. This invisibility of large numbers of GLBT people make it difficult for young people to see positive healthy examples of happy GLBT adults. We are here and we continue to reach out with positive examples of what it means to be a member of the community."

The winners, who beat out 20 other finalists from more than 1,000 submissions nationwide, will each receive $5,000, plus resources and support from the larger Encore.org community. The prize money is an added financial and morale boost as the organization works to encourage troubled youth.

"I try to let other people know that they are not alone with their questions, fears, and struggles," Robinson says. "So many people we encounter each day have had the same questions, fears, and struggles. I understand that we get tired as we struggle especially when we feel we are alone. It is easy to lose hope when we do not see reasons around us to continue. Do not lose hope. A supportive loving community is here made up of people who have been through what you are going through."

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