Uplift Outreach Center, located at Fernwood Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC, is Upstate’s only registered 501(c)(3) organization solely dedicated to providing a safe and supportive environment for peer interaction and resources provided for LGBTQ+ youth ages 10-19 and will be celebrating their one-year birthday on August 27, 2020.

Uplift Outreach Center is excited to announce that Deb Foreman has been appointed as Executive Director and Tanna Thompson as Program Director. Additionally, Eric Nolley will serve as President of the Board of Directors for the 2020-2021 term.

The organization was co-founded by Eric Nolley and Deb Foreman in May of 2019 and opened their doors on August 27, 2019. During the past year, Uplift has grown beyond their own expectations and has provided services to 115 youth from Spartanburg, Union, Cherokee, and Greenville counties. Uplift Outreach Center has two designated youth groups, one for tweens ages 10 to 14 that meets on Saturdays from 1pm to 3pm and another for teens ages 15 to 19 that meets on Tuesdays and Saturdays
from 3:30pm to 6:30pm. Uplift’s youth groups were meeting for in-person meetings at Fernwood Baptist Church until mid-March 2020 but has been meeting virtually since that date due to COVID-19.

Starting in June 2020, Uplift Outreach Center began providing curbside pickup of activity bags, snacks, and beverages to the services provided to the youth. Activity bags have included journaling supplies, books, stickers, various outdoor activities, stress balls, fidget toys for anxiety, art materials, flower kits, among other activities to help youth stay occupied during times of quarantining and physical distancing as youth are especially adversely affected during this pandemic. Physical distancing, masks, and gloves have been made mandatory during the curbside pickup events.

Quote from lgbtq youth that reads, "It's a place where I feel like I don't have to hide part of myself."

Uplift’s programming stems from the youth-led Youth Advisory Council and their decisions have directly developed the programming that has been held such as Sexual Health Education, Stress Management, Resume Building, LGBTQ+ History, Movie & Pizza nights, Murder Mystery Activity, Virtual Yoga with Goats, Toxic Positivity and Mindfulness, Self-Love & Resiliency Activity, and The Future Perfect Project with James Lecesne, co-founder of The Trevor Project. Additionally, there was a virtual summer camp event held in July, which was generously funded by Spartanburg Academic Movement, and included
virtual workshops of Painting, Cosplay, Stress Management, Acting/ Improv, Civic Engagement, Creating
Safe Spaces for LGBTQ+ students in schools, and a “SheNUNigans” Make Up Tutorial.

The Youth Advisory Council at Uplift Outreach Center is currently planning their own Virtual Pride Event that will take place at the end of this month after learning that the local Pride events will not be able to take place due to safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic. This will be done in hopes of lifting spirits and morale during a time in which the youth have felt a challenge in connecting with their peers and with the LGBTQ+ community.

Uplift Outreach Center is proud to have had the opportunity to partner with the United Way of the Piedmont, CONNECT Spartanburg, USC Upstate Child Protective Training Center, Spartanburg Academic Movement, and BRUH Mentor over the last year. These partnerships have opened grant opportunities for the organization, community involvement, and advocacy and education opportunities for our LGBTQ+ youth and staff.

Tanna Thompson, Uplift Outreach Center’s Program Director also coordinates volunteers to assist with programming and administrative tasks. Volunteers are required to obtain an annual SLED background check and complete training that includes LGBTQ+ issues, gender identity, sexual orientation, cultural competency, and confidentiality.

Uplift Outreach Center is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Monetary donations are
welcomed and can be mailed to Uplift Outreach Center, PO BOX 171375, Spartanburg, SC 29301.