ABOUT POSITIVE IMAGES
Positive Images is a youth lead grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Our mission is to provide support and advocacy to Sonoma County’s LGBTQ+ youth and young adults, and educate the greater community. Our LGBTQ+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, and mentorship opportunities. We’re proud to offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead community trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. We envision a Sonoma County where all youth are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.
From the Beginning:
In January of 1990, Positive Images opened its doors as a co-creation of Beverlee Laird and Jim Foster, MFT. The first meeting was held in Jim Foster’s counseling office located in Santa Rosa. It was attended by 5 young gay men. Due to demand, the bimonthly Thursday night support meetings soon became weekly after the first year. Today there is an average attendance of 25 members plus a few adult mentors at every meeting.
PI began giving panel presentations the Spring of 1990, serving as a resource for high-school communication and survival skills classes as well as “Diversity Days.” Currently we also receive speaker requests for presentations in psychology, sociology, and health classes at Santa Rosa Junior College, Sonoma State University, and social service agencies. In the summer of 1992, Positive Images began a mentor program of screening, training, and supporting LGBTQ+ adults who had a desire and commitment to work with LGBTQ+ youth. Mentoring in the first years was very similar to “Big Brothers & Big Sisters.” They were one-on-one contractual relationships of six months to one year in length with a PI member. As time has evolved, adult volunteers serve PI in several ways: Adults can now contribute as “Friends of PI” assisting with fundraising, special events, providing expertise, regular donations, or becoming a Board member.
Gay pride month [June] activities have been a vital interest and commitment for Positive Images throughout our history. In our first year (1990), we marched in Sonoma County’s first Gay Pride parade, as well as joining LYRIC [Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center] in San Francisco’s parade. We haven’t missed a year or parade since. Participation in Pride parades and festivals is a definite statement of our organization’s presence, outreach, esteem and risk to participate with the greater Sonoma County community. This visibility is a vital aspect of community-building for youth and young adults. As P.I. co-founder Jim Foster says, “You can’t help but feel good about declaring who you are when marching down the street and carrying the P.I. banner. This is a very powerful act in countering any shame.”
The first Positive Images office was created in 1994, – a tiny room located at 1023 4th St. in Santa Rosa. It was a co-creation of Todd and Dawn, who were co-facilitators at the time. In October, they put on a “Homecoming Out” dance, as well as the first Positive Images Valentine’s dance in February of 1996.
The PI Parents’ support group began in the summer of 1998, headed by Ray and Jill Tarap, and Deb and Robert Lane. The primary focus of this group was support for effective parenting, and a place to do grief work in healing any homophobic cultural conditioning. They were also instrumental in getting parents together to attend and march in the Sonoma County and San Francisco Pride Parades.
In 1998, the PI office moved down the hall into its first full-sized space – Suite “B”- which served as headquarters for the group’s growth for the next four years. In 1999, Nancy Vogl joined Positive Images and created a unique co-executive directorship (a conjoint job-share with Jim Foster). The organization continued to grow and evolve until it became apparent that more space was desperately needed.
In the Fall of 2003, PI seized a timely opportunity to move one door away on Chinn Street, to occupy an entire house.