Claremont chamber honors Pomona Pride Center
by Andrew Alonzo | email@example.com
“Like so many of the organizations we have, they are not thanked for the things that they’re doing every day,” said chamber Executive Director Randy Lopez. “They’ve had such an impact with making folks aware of the issues that this community is facing and, most importantly, they’re just providing a wonderful resource: a gathering place.”
The center provides interactive services to the queer community to help navigate life, sexual identity, gender, and other complex topics.
“Getting an award from Claremont was really meaningful because it meant that we’re making an impact there as well,” said PPC Executive Director and Board President Frank Guzman.
The seeds for Pomona Pride Center were planted in 2011, after Guzman, an openly gay man, was elected to an at-large seat on the Pomona Unified School District’s Board of Trustees. He won election again four years later, representing Trustee Area 3. Throughout his tenure he heard parents’ concerns about LGBTQ+ students.
“Initially it was like, well, I’m just going to do what’s good for kids, and if I do what’s good for my kids then it’s going to be good for other kids as well, right?” Guzman said. “Shortly thereafter, it was more than that.”
Wanting to do something that didn’t overstep school or family boundaries, Guzman spoke with local queer leaders about opening a safe space for marginalized youth. After various ideas were floated, plans for Pomona Pride Center came together in 2019.
At a meeting with leaders at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Guzman asked, “Are we going to keep just hobnobbing it or are we going to actually do something?” Work began that May.
He filed nonprofit paperwork with the Internal Revenue Service a month later while two others secured leadership for a board of directors. The nonprofit’s board met for the first time in June, and the center opened July 7, 2019, operating out of a donated space at St. Paul’s.
The new center served about 12,000 people per year while housed at St. Paul’s, Guzman said. In March 2022 the organization received a $250,000 grant from the California Medication Assisted Treatment Access Points Project, a portion of which was tapped to move to 386 S. Thomas St. in downtown Pomona. The center served about 5,900 people at its new location last year.
The Pomona Pride Center serves Pomona, La Verne, Claremont, Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Chino, Chino Hills, Diamond Bar, Walnut and San Dimas.
“Aside from the center here, there is not a center in like 35-plus miles in every direction that you go,” Guzman said. “People within the Pomona Valley region have access to a center that’s within a reasonable distance. I believe that everyone should have an inclusive and safe space, no matter what city you are in.”
After learning about the center on social media last year, Pomona resident Kenn Salazar began utilizing it to connect with other LGBTQ+ people. Now a youth engagement specialist with the nonprofit, Salazar provides resources, education, and guidance to queer youth in her neighborhood.
The pride center’s programming revolves around socialization, education, activism, and youth empowerment. Since January 2023, offerings have expanded to include a bi-monthly reading rainbow club, pooches at the park events, Sunday art classes and workshops, a quarterly community training series on LGBTQ+ topics, youth mentorship opportunities, and more. A full list of services is at pomonapridecenter.org.
“You do not have to be a member of the queer community to take advantage of these resources or any of these programs,” Guzman added.
Through community and county partnerships, the center offers a walk-in flu and Covid vaccination clinic every Wednesday. It is also a certified CalFresh site where people can apply for benefits or pick up food. The nonprofit also works throughout PUSD to not only support queer youth with “coming-out plans,” but also educational success guides. The center currently supports about 130 students, Guzman said.
Arianna Guzman, Frank Guzman’s daughter, is a youth engagement specialist, and one of the pride center’s founding board members. “We’ve all known that there’s a need in the queer community,” she said. “I hope that it just opens up a conversation.”
Next month, the PPC board will meet “to create our strategic plan which could be good for the next three to five years,” Frank Guzman said.
For those interested in getting involved, a free community training series will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 10 at 386 S. Thomas St., which will be followed by a pride festival.
The Pomona Pride Center is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Go to pomonapridecenter.org or call (909) 326-0482 for more information.