Things are bustling at both locations of the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation. On a Wednesday afternoon in late October, Sarah Rosso, E.D., a National expert on LGBTQ Child Welfare, was shuttling from the new office of the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation in East Liberty back to the original office in the Northside.
Rosso, the executive director of the organization, said, “We outgrew our Northside home base as we increased our programs and services.” She attributed Program Director Coley Alston for being instrumental in aiding her in the expansion of youth and family services.
Alston, who, like Rosso, has a Master’s in Public Health, said, “I have a strong passion for serving all youth.”
The Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, which was formed in 2017 to improve the health of the LGBTQ+ and HIV communities, offers a variety of services and resources for the LGBTQ+ community. They offer legal services, support groups, advocacy & outreach, wellness programs, and a food pantry aptly named Hugh’s Kitchen. The Foundation is named after Lane, who lived in a time when being out and openly talking about HIV was highly stigmatized.
Rosso became the executive director in 2019 and right before the pandemic hit. She immediately pivoted and began serving on the Pennsylvania COVID Equity Committee and the Allegheny County COVID Equity Task Force.
Rosso said, “Right away we shifted our service line and concentrated on food distribution and trying to reduce isolationism with some online events.” The Foundation hosted events on Zoom and Discord (a social media platform originally designed for the gaming community).
Coley said, “With the youth, there is always an adult online to monitor the conversations.”
In addition to all of its myriad services, the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation is reestablishing Thrive in the Pittsburgh area.
Rosso said, “Thrive began as the Pittsburgh chapter of the nationally known GLSEN (Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network) and broke off and became its own 501c3, but in 2018 it had to shutter its doors.” She added, “We are bringing it back.”
Coley said, “We want to serve our youth in the community, in their homes, and at their schools. With Thrive, we are working with GSA’s and building relationships with school districts in Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Westmoreland, and Washington.” They added, “We’re in all twenty-six counties. If a school district invites us to come help them with LGBTQ+ issues, we will be there.”
Coley mentioned that once a year they drive up to a community in rural Pennsylvania that has an annual Allies Breakfast, for the LGBTQ+ kids and their families, which is 90 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh.
The Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation has programming for youth as well as for parents, teachers, and school administrators.
Since COVID-19, the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation has returned to hosting in-person events. Earlier in October, the center hosted a Fall Festival and, more recently, they held a Halloween party for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 14 to 21) called MASQ.
“In November we will begin our food distributions for the upcoming holidays [one in November and one in December]. The meals are fully customizable to meet the needs and traditions of the client. They are delivered in bright rainbow bags.” Rosso added, “The sign-up form goes up around November 1.”
On December 10th, the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation East Liberty location will host a Winter Wonderland event. Rosso said, “There will be drag performers, arts & crafts and a hot cocoa station. While it’s focused on youth and families, it is an all-ages event.”
For more information, and chances to volunteer for the Hugh Lane Wellness Foundation, please email email@example.com.