Finding PRIDE in Port Washington
By Mary Boyle
When Kevin was growing up in a small Wisconsin town, there weren't many resources for kids like him. Kids who were gay. He took refuge in his school's theatre program and discovered he fit in better there. Theatre people are very accepting.
Fast forward many years later and Kevin and his husband, Steve, were looking for a home. Steve brought Kevin to a little place in Port Washington called Smith Bros. Coffee House where Kevin was introduced to the most delicious fish sandwich he'd ever eaten. While that was an excellent selling point for a quaint lakeside community, what really caught Kevin's eye as they drove about town was the number of pride flags he saw.
"That flag means so much more for our community," explained Kevin, "it's like Batman's signal; you know you're going to be safe."
In June of 2021, Kevin and Steve moved to Port and Kevin immediately set to work trying to find his community within the community. He reached out to Port Washington's Mayor and joined the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, where he met Karl. Kevin didn't want kids growing up without resources, like he did, and Karl was on the same page. By January of 2022, the two of them launched PW Pride, a group that would work as a place for Port's LGBTQ community to find resources; a group that could "educate, advocate and celebrate," as their mission states.
Wanting to build their group, the two found a willing partner in the WJ Niederkorn library and set up their first Coffee Connection events, which were well received. Ideas for more events, like the Pride Picnic and Game Night, made it clear that PW Pride needed to be more than just a group. From that point on, both Kevin and Karl set out to create a non profit which, they hope, will one day grow into the actual resource center that Kevin wished he'd had when he was growing up.
Gaining non-profit status is not cheap, so the group began their first fundraising campaign by asking local businesses to sell pride flags in their shops. "This is more than just a fundraiser, though," said Kevin. "This shows the community that our local businesses support the LGBTQ community. We started with 7 stores and this year we have 10."
With the June Pride Month approaching, the group has a number of events for people of all ages lined up, beginning with a special Coffee Connection on Saturday, May 20th at the WJ Niederkorn Library featuring Planting Hope, an LGBTQ non-profit that is helping families grow "one plant at a time." In June at the library, there will be a Movie Screening of "Love, Simon," on Monday, June 5th and a Book Talk and Signing on "The History of Drag in Milwaukee" on Wednesday, June 14th. On Friday, June 23rd at Sir James Pub in Port Washington there will be a PW Pride Karaoke Fundraiser for the over 21 crowd, but family-friendly events are also in the works, such as a Pride Pool Party at Pirate's Hollow and a Pride Picnic at Upper Lake Park later in June.
"We want to be a group that is accepted in the community and that gives back to the community, no different from the Kiwanis or Lions Club," Kevin stressed. "To have our voices heard and be included would be enough for us. I didn't have this growing up, so this is maybe my legacy: I gave somebody the space to come out and the resources they needed. I want to know I did something."
To learn more about PW Pride and their upcoming events, go to their Facebook page at:
5/18/2023 09:34:53 am
Well done Kevin, Steve, and Karl! We support you 1000%!
5/18/2023 10:00:48 am
We love Kevin! What he is doing for the LGBTQ+ community is truly heroic. With such polarizing politics, and attacks on the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, it’s just amazing to see people like Kevin and groups like Port Pride step up and provide safe spaces. Especially for the youth in the area. Thank you Kevin and Port Pride for all that you do.
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