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PFY prepares for a month of pride

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As Pride Month begins, PFY, formerly known as Pride for Youth, is set to kick off the month with a virtual event while continuing to serve the LGBTQ+ community.

While its annual Pride Month fundraiser is usually in person, the organization will stick with a virtual format this year, even as pandemic restrictions continue to ease. It’s a departure from the usual, but the new normal has allowed the Bellmore-based PFY to cater to clients in ways it couldn’t before, according to its director of Nassau operations, Tawni Engel.

“There’s a silver lining,” Engel said. The pandemic has been “devastating,” she said, “but we’ve been able to learn about clients’ ability to access our services. Some are young and not out to their parents; some don’t even want to ask.”

New clients have been able to overcome “barriers,” Engel said, by accessing free virtual counseling from their homes, as well as a variety of virtual events. Other in-person services, such as HIV and STI testing, are still available.

On Tuesday, PFY hosted Elevate, Enlighten, Empower: A Virtual Pride Celebration, featuring youth performances, personal stories, guest appearances and a retrospective of the organization’s journey.

The first three words of the event’s title were the goal for the LGBTQ+ community, Engel said: elevate by showcasing many talents, enlighten by showing what the community and PFY have been up to, and empower by sharing powerful stories.

As of press time, the event had raised more than $28,000, nearing its goal of $30,000. The goal was increased once the $25,000 mark was passed.

PFY’s Pride After Dark will make the move online this year, too, making it the first large-scale virtual event hosted by the organization. It is a venue solely for artists — expect to see drag performers, singers and celebrity appearances — and promises to be as loud as its in-person counterpart, Engel said.

Pride After Dark will take place on June 20 at 7 p.m., and is free. Registration for the event can be found on PFY’s various social media pages.

“What’s beautiful about it is it gives a platform for young adults across Long Island to express themselves and show their pride,” said Devon Zappasodi, director of PFY’s Suffolk division, which recently opened its first location in Deer Park. “It’s a space to gather and celebrate, but mostly it’s a space that they own — it’s all them, and we’re just organizing the logistics of it.”

Performers can submit videos to be shown during Pride After Dark. PFY HIV testers will also be available throughout to help guests set up HIV testing appointments.

“There are not enough spaces on Long Island that do this,” Zappasodi said.

PFY may soon receive an additional influx of funds thanks to U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, who requested nearly $150,000 for the organization. According to a letter sent by Rice to fellow members of Congress, “The funding would be used to supplement PFY’s LGBTQ Health and Human Services program and to improve access to behavioral health services through PFY’s Individual Counseling Program.”

The funds, while not guaranteed, could help provide more counseling services and shorten the waitlist for clients who want counseling, Engel said.

Pride Month is PFY’s busiest month of the year, and Engel said it brings “visibility and awareness” to the LGBTQ+ community. “This community is here,” she said, “and growing stronger all the time.”

“It’s a platform during a very important month,” Zappasodi said. “Who wouldn’t want to be on stage?”