Passages Youth Center: A Place of Acceptance
Queer youth in Kansas City haven’t always had a safe, positive place to hang out where they can be themselves. But for about a generation, thanks to community volunteers and donors, they have had Passages Youth Center.
The center is a drug-free, alcohol-free, weapon-free and hate-free meeting place for the LGBTQ and allied youth of greater Kansas City, ages 14 through 20.
From its start more than two decades ago, Passages has adapted and moved with the community. Its home was in Westport for several years, but now the young people meet on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the basement of Trinity United Methodist Church on East Armour Boulevard.
Paul DiGeorge, Passages board president, has been working with the group for many years. According to DiGeorge, today’s LGBTQ youth feel more and more welcome in broader society. Marriage equality, the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and a general increase in societal inclusion and education have been good for the health of queer teens. But it’s always nice to have that familiar, comfortable place with like-spirited people.
In-kind donations to Passages are down from grocers and others during this time of economic hardship, when the need for household aid and food pantries continues to grow, Local merchant OutThere and the nightclub bar Natasha closed up shop; both were generous in-kind donors to Passages.
Additionally, Passages stopped collecting a cover charge for its Saturday movie and dance nights, a decision based on feedback from youth and parents. Rent, disposable kitchen supplies and Internet provider fees are constants in Passages’ debit column. Even small monetary donations can go a long way toward offsetting these costs.
Pantry items come into higher demand during the school year and when cold weather hits. Nonperishable, easy-to-prepare foods such as canned meat and instant side dishes are always welcomed. See kcpassages.org for a more detailed wish list.
DiGeorge says that in recent years, he’s been seeing more parents coming in with their younger teens. He often refers the moms and dads to PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Reciprocally, new PFLAG parents sometimes find out about Passages in a similar way. It’s not at all surprising to find current PFLAG-KC co-presidents Glen Dove and Carolyn Finken-Dove hanging out with the youth.
On Wednesdays, dinner is served and there is often a workshop or presentation. Passages has a small computer lab with filtered Internet access, multimedia capabilities, a laser printer and wireless Internet for laptops or mobile devices.
Saturday nights bring 7 o’clock films. After the movie, a DJ mixes the latest music. A quieter lounge with books, movies, board games and computer stations is also available on both nights for conversation, fun and status updates.
This year’s Show-Me State Rodeo -- a project of the Missouri Gay Rodeo Association (MGRA) -- has named Passages as a beneficiary. MGRA also provides dinner one Wednesday per month. Hallmark’s LGBT employee resource group, Reaching Equality, is another meal-provider; Reaching Equality dinnertime talk has included creative vocations and youth art.
One Wednesday a month, Grinders donates pizza to the group. Leawood and Overland Park Hen Houses give baked goods. And on fifth Wednesdays, Sharp’s sends its pizza over.
Each spring, the group’s landlord, Trinity United Methodist Church, hosts Passages Prom. The church provides all the amenities of regular prom, but this event is sure to be LGBTQ-welcoming, complete with elected royalty and dinner.
Trustworthy adult volunteers and the occasional interested parent can also be found at Passages. If you’re able, consider donating to the group. If you’re a young person, head down on Wednesdays and Saturdays and spend time being yourself with your peers.
Passages Youth Center
Basement of Trinity United Methodist Church
620 E. Armour Blvd. (entry in rear)
Kansas City, Mo.
Wednesdays 5:30-9 p.m.: Dinner and workshop/casual discussion
Saturdays 6:30-11 p.m.: Movie followed by music/dancing (photo ID required)
816-931-0334 or firstname.lastname@example.org
kcpassages.org or facebook.com/kcpassages