In May, the First Baptist Church of Moorestown opened its doors both literally and metaphorically to the LGBTQ+ community with the creation of PRISM, a Safe/Brave Space at the church. While the summer saw a slow start to the program, PRISM’s creator, Beverly Allegretti, said she’s undeterred and eager to see how they can expand their reach.
And Allegretti is getting a bit of help from an unexpected place. Members of Widener University’s Sexuality and Gender Alliance have joined forces with PRISM. Their hope is to spend the year ahead helping to support PRISM and serve as a resource to local LGBTQ+ youth.
While the church has already been openly supportive of the LBTQ+ community, PRISM marked another step forward. Geared at teenagers ages 13 to 18, the outreach program is welcome to anyone regardless of their religion and serves as place for youths to meet fellow LGBTQ+ community members, get resources and share their experiences in a supportive environment that meets several times a month.
In June, Allegretti was at a pop-up pride event in Collingswood when Caitlin Bell, a Widener University nursing student, came upon Allegretti’s stand. Bell, a Palmyra native, said she took a brochure to learn more and decided it would be great if she and her fellow Sex and Gender Alliance members could find a way a way to collaborate.
Bell said, in the past, the club has worked with LGBTQ+ youth, but it hadn’t done anything locally in New Jersey. She saw this as their chance.
In speaking with Allegretti, Bell learned that PRISM was just starting and that most of the volunteers were adults. She thought it might be beneficial for teenagers to have someone closer to their age to speak with since they were in their place not that long ago.
She said they want to talk about issues that are relevant to these teens. They’re currently planning a health and wellness presentation on Nov. 15 in which they plan to discuss a variety of topics. Bell said teenagers can use some dating apps as young as 16, and so, they want to talk about how to be safe on dating apps. They’ll also broach the topics of safe sex, body image and drug use.
Looking back on her own coming out experience in high school, Bell said it wasn’t an easy time in her life.
“There really wasn’t anything like this when I was young,” Bell said. “I definitely think if I had a group like PRISM when I was younger than it would have been extremely beneficial to me.”
The Widener students are also helping in any other way they can. They’ll be volunteering at an upcoming Coffee House/Sing Along fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 20, which will benefit PRISM and First Baptist Church.
While PRISM has only been host to a small handful of teens thus far, Allegretti is optimistic upcoming events will help get the momentum going.
“I would say it’s taught me to be patient and to trust that if we are going by the statistics that are out here for homeless youth in LGBTQ community these kids are out there,” Allegretti said. “They just need to see the consistency that we’re going to be there for them and gain their trust.”
To learn more about PRISM and its upcoming fundraisers, visit https://www.fbcmoorestown.org/prism.html.