This new version of the Pride Flag, designed by Daniel Quasar, incorporates additional colors to show intersectionality and solidarity. Image provided by Wolfpack Clubhouse.
Wolfpack Clubhouse started with a simple Facebook page in 2017, Executive Director Terrie Carson says.
“We felt there was a strong need for more support for women in the LGBTQ+ community. We wanted to be able to find each other, and to have a safe place to connect, go to events together, support one another, and advocate for those in need.”
They wanted to be able to socialize together, Carson explains, to travel in a pack. A wolfpack, where the individual draws strength from the group as a whole.
Carson is a transplant to Shasta County from the Bay Area, but has been coming to Shasta and Trinity Counties for extended stays with family since she was six. She says in the last few years, she's found her local pack in the growing group of women who are part of Wolfpack Clubhouse.
“I think the Redding community would be surprised at just how many LGBTQ+ people live among them,” Carson exclaims, “I know I was!”
The group has evolved from a small cohort of close friends to a non-profit community organization with around 200 active participants, Carson says. They focus on women, but their special events and youth activities are open to all genders. According to Carson, Wolfpack Clubhouse hosts an annual LGBTQ+ Christmas party and helps organize the local Pride Festival as well as providing a number of other community activities.
“We support each other in so many ways, by providing companionship, going places together, creating projects together and trying to make sure that our community feels not only worthy, but empowered.”
Carson emphasizes that the group provides a safe haven for the local LGBTQ+ community, where they can be free to be themselves, without judgment, in social settings. The Wolfpack Clubhouse, she says, is “a place to laugh, cry & learn new things together.”
“We are an empowering, lesbian sisterhood of solidarity,” Carson says, “who welcome all LGBTQ+ persons and allies. An organization full of strong, open-minded women who, together, as a pack, form a fierce determination & strength. We treat each other kindly and lift each other’s spirits up, and together, face challenges head-on.”
Wolfpack Clubhouse now provides weekly support groups and parenting groups as well as book clubs, Carson says. They host hiking, walking, kayaking, and camping events, and facilitate art therapy and body image groups. And they provide opportunities for dance, gardening, sporting events, movie nights, and special topic workshops. She explains that all of these opportunities facilitate opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community to simply be together in a safe environment.
Much of that changed in the early days of the pandemic though, Carson says. As the group closed down their in-person support services in response to COVID-19, all services moved online. This limited some people’s access to support, with tragic consequences. A member of their community took her own life shortly thereafter. “This was an incredibly talented young person who was well loved, but isolated," Carson says.
The group knew they needed to find a way to reach more people during the pandemic, she says, especially LGBTQ+ youth who might feel more alone, anxious or depressed during social distancing measures.
In response, Wolfpack Clubhouse recently launched a 24 hour LGBTQ+ Community Hotline, utilizing their group crisis counselors as well as licensed therapists from within the Wolfpack Clubhouse Community.
Carson explains that the service is important because the LGBTQ+ community often has a harder time finding the help they need due what she calls “sometimes harsh” treatment from the local community. She says the hotline is tailored to help LGBTQ+ youth feel safe and comfortable seeking the specific resources they need.
“We can refer these people to appropriate local organizations who are LGBTQ+ friendly,” she says, “or they may just need someone to listen and let them know that they are not alone and that there are support programs in place for them if they are interested.”
The group continues to reopen with COVID precautions in place This summer they will host a Saturday youth program for ages 13-17 where teens can drop in weekly, to be among peers, enjoy art therapy, watch movies, read, do homework, or seek additional support, Carson says.
But she emphasizes that there is still a need in the Shasta County community for more support for LGBTQ+ youth. She says the group is working to reach out to Shasta College and local high schools to make sure youth are informed about the Wolfpack Clubhouse hotline and drop in youth programs.
Meanwhile the group's projects continue to expand. They’re currently building an LGBTQ+ Community Garden, Carson reports, with the goal of feeding their own community members as well as supplying fresh produce to the local HIV Food Bank. Local members with expertise in construction and gardening have been collaborating, she says, and the space will become a venue for fundraising events in the future. Carson says the group has been encouraged by community support for the project.
“People have been driving by while we are working out there and honk and wave, sometimes stop to chat and cheer us on. So far we have received only positive feedback on this project and we have had people reach out to Wolfpack Clubhouse, who want to donate plants and gardening supplies to the project.”
The group is also working alongside the NorCal Outreach Project (NCOP) to put together the first large scale Pride Parade in Shasta County, Carson says, referring to NCOP as a great resource that works tirelessly on behalf of the local LGBTQ+ community. She explains that the event may happen this year, or next, depending on COVID concerns, “but we are extremely excited to someday soon have the entire community and neighboring communities come out and be a part of our Pride Celebration."
And Wolfpack Clubhouse continues to work towards showcasing gay pride through a Rainbow Crosswalk placed somewhere in Redding. Carson says Redding's City Manager Barry Tippin and Director of Development Services Kim Niemer have met with Wolfpack Clubhouse about the project and progress is encouraging. According to Carson, city leaders seem to recognize the need for local symbols of support for the LGBTQ+ community, particularly youth.
“As many are aware,” Carson says, “ the LGBTQ+ community represents one of the most marginalized & underrepresented groups of people, alongside racial and cultural minorities. As a community, we also face higher rates of hate-motivated violence, simply for being our authentic selves.”
Carson calls the crosswalk "an extremely important symbol of unity for the entire LGBTQ+ community."