A country music star is lending her fame to a cause important to her: offering support to the gay lesbian bisexual and transgender community in Kansas City. Chely Wright grew up in small town Wellsville, Kansas.
The singer came out just two years ago, one of the first major country music stars to do so. Now, her philanthropic organization, Like Me, is opening it's first LGBT Community Center, the Lighthouse. It's goal is to be a beacon of light for the LGBT community, a safe place that's all about inclusion, respect and equality.
The Like Me Lighthouse is still a bit under construction, and in its early stages, but Charlene Daniels says she's excited about the possibilities. They're building a computer lab, meeting spaces, they'll get some book clubs and other small meeting groups going soon. Plus they have a library packed with some 2,000 books and videos.
"Everyone from all over the country donated these books because they wanted us to have an LGBT library," Daniels says.
The Lighthouse will be a place for LGBT groups from all over the metro to meet and build the network of cooperation and support. And it's all thanks to country music star and Kansas City area native Chely Wright.
"She wants to do something to give back to the LGBT community," Daniels says.
Lighthouse volunteer Kristen Bertz relates to Wright's story and her decision to come out. Bertz also grew up in a small town, Lexington, Mo. She went to church and lived the life she was supposed to live.
"I thought I was supposed to marry a man have a family and be married forever," Bertz says, "so I was married to a fantastic man, and we have a five year old son."
She came out to her family less than a year ago. Most of them have been supportive but she's glad there is a supportive place like the Like Me Lighthouse.
"There will be people in life who aren't supportive," she says. " But you have to find and surround yourself with people who are 'like me' and people who can help you grow."
Daniels also wishes there had been a center like this for her when some of her family members came out. She hopes the Lighthouse offers others that light of hope and understanding in a world that isn't always accepting of the LGBT community.
"I think there's a long ways to go but if people would support a center like this it would help," she says.
The Like Me Lighthouse has an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony with Chely Wright on Saturday from noon until 4pm. It's at the Like Me Lighthouse, 3909 Main St.
Saturday night at 7 p.m., there is a benefit concert at University of Missouri-Kansas City Student Union Theatre, 5100 cherry st. The concert features Chely Wright, as well as Alan Cumming, Hal Sparks, Jennifer Knapp and others. Tickets can be purchased at likemelighthouse.org or tickets.cto.umkc.edu.
On Sunday, Chely Wright also invites the public to the NOH8 open photo shoot at the Like Me Lighthouse from noon until 3p.m. The Like Me Lighthouse will have regular hours from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
Click here for more information check out the group's website.