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LGBTQ+ non-profits Virginia Pride, Diversity Richmond to merge

Photos: Thousands attend VA PrideFest on Brown’s Island: ‘It is OK to be who you are’
Posted at 8:30 AM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 08:58:13-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- Two of Central Virginia’s leading LGBTQ+ organizations will announce plans to merge on Tuesday.

Diversity Richmond and Virginia Pride will consolidate operations effective April 1, according to a press release.

“As a program of Diversity Richmond, Virginia Pride will continue to produce its signature event, PrideFest, as well as other events that support the LGBTQ community. Events and activities will continue to be guided by a diverse committee of volunteers who will have the support of a full-time, paid Program Director. By joining forces, the organizations will make an even bigger, positive impact on the LGBTQ community and better fulfill their complementary missions,” the statement read.

Virginia Pride interim executive director James Millner said the announcement follows an 18-month long process of consultations with stakeholders and attorneys.

Millner feared the pandemic would derail plans, but instead, the lockdown reinforced the need to solidify their future.

“Since its incorporation as a non-profit in 2006, Virginia Pride has been led entirely by volunteers all of whom have regular, full-time jobs,” said Millner. “This new structure will allow our volunteer leadership to have the support of full-time staff and will ensure that we are able to continue to produce the fantastic events and provide the support to our community that we are known for.”

Millner will transition to the role of Program Director once the merger is complete.

Virginia Pride started in the mid 1970s and organizes the annual Pridefest that is attended by more than 40,000 people each year. The non-profit has been committed to LGBTQ community advocacy and produces dozens of events in Metro Richmond.

Founded in 1999, Diversity Richmond calls itself “a catalyst, a voice, a place, and a resource for Richmond’s LGBTQ community.”

The non-profit’s Sherwood Avenue center has served as a COVID-19 testing site and hosted press conferences for state and local officials during the pandemic.

“I remember when the first pride festival was held in Richmond 42 years ago when 75 people attended,” said Bill Harrison, President and Executive Director of Diversity Richmond. “If you had told me then that one day we would have 40,000 people at Pridefest, I’d have laughed. But, here we are. What Virginia Pride has accomplished as an all-volunteer organization is astonishing to me. Diversity Richmond is honored that we have this opportunity to provide the support they need to continue their incredible trajectory.”

Virginia Pride will help boost Diversity Richmond’s event planning and fundraising capacities, creating synergy between its programs and current roster of donors and corporate partners and the work of Diversity Richmond, according to the release.

The boards of directors of both organizations have approved the merger plan. Virginia Pride will submit the merger plan to its voting membership for approval at a meeting on March 22.