PFLAG will honor local ‘heroes’ Sept. 14 in Newport

Newport News Times, September 9, 2016, Page B8

The Sept. 14 meeting of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), which takes place at 6 p.m. at St. Stephen’s Church, 414 SW Ninth St., Newport, will celebrate three PFLAG heroes — Nel Ward, Jeanne St. John and Kae Bates.   

Nel Ward moved to Lincoln County with her partner, Sue Hardesty, about 23 years ago. She has served as director of the local preview center for youth books, donating many thousands of books to Lincoln County libraries and classrooms and annually publishing hundreds of reviews of youth-oriented books   

Ward’s first experience in local politics was campaigning against the Oregon Citizens    Alliance Measure 9, in 1992, and that experience led her to run for city council as an out lesbian in 1994.  

Through her affiliation with the National Organization for Women, she helped write and actively supported the implementation of an anti-harassment policy for the Newport schools.   

Almost seven years ago, Ward started writing and publishing the monthly Central Coast PFLAG newsletter, which includes national and international news and politics, action items, and pieces about people who change LGBT life for the better. She also writes a progressive blog: www.nelsnewday.wordpress.com.   

Jeanne St. John and her late wife, Kae Bates, moved to Lincoln County 26 years ago. They are the co-founders, and St. John was the first president of the Oregon Central Coast chapter of PFLAG in Newport. That happened in 2008 following the suicide of a Newport High School student who was harassed and bullied at school and had no support at home or in the community. St. John and Bates had retired from the Lincoln County School District, St. John as a principal, and Bates as a school nurse. They were not only well qualified, but dynamic enough and well-enough connected to advocate effectively for queer kids in a community that has not always been open to change.   

Together they promoted Bully Prevention programs in Lincoln County schools.   St. John created and taught LGBT 101 workshops to school staff, students, and community groups. They helped establish Gay/Straight Alliance clubs in local schools and in the Angell Job Corps. They forged partnerships with schools, local elected officials, and community mental health organizations to serve LGBTQ youth. Under their leadership PFLAG OCC won the award for education from the national PFLAG organization in 2013. They  were also responsible for starting the tradition of a very well-attended Love is Love Community Valentine Party, which attracts young and old, gay and straight community members each year.   

PFLAG provides factual and helpful information and personal connections for families whose children or teens believe they may be among the minority in sexual orientation or gender identity. For more information, call 541-265-7194.  

  Jeanne St. John, left, and Kae Bates were co-founders of the Oregon Central Coast chapter of PFLAG (Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). They have been named PFLAG heroes. (Courtesy photos)

 

  Nel Ward is being honored as a PFLAG hero during the group’s meeting on Sept. 14 in Newport. (Courtesy photo)

 

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