HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- The holidays can be a challenging time for people with limited family support. That's especially true for youth who identify as LGBTQ+ and have faced rejection from their parents or peers, so one organization is stepping up to make sure they feel loved this season.
Inside the Lakeside Farmers' Market in Henrico Sunday, Klaus Ryan shuffled and sorted through donations for people in need.
“Today, we have a supply drive and a collection for our registry for the Holi-gay Giveback that we're doing," Ryan said.
While the word play might be fun, Ryan, a co-organizer for the Safe Space Market, said the mission is serious.
“We all know that Christmas time, holiday time can be extremely painful, because if you don't have a family, that's kind of the main focus," they said.
That's why the Safe Space Market, which gives a platform to underrepresented small business owners, collected toys, blankets, space heaters, jackets, and other items for LGBTQ+ youth who don't have a stable support system at home. Some have even been outcasted by their parents and were forced into troubling living situations.
“There are folks who either don't have financial support or just don't have support from family, whether because they're in the queer community or not, and they just need extra love this season," Ryan explained.
Rey Mehlhorn, a frequent vendor of the market, volunteered to help out with the event Sunday.
“There are a lot of people that are in rough situations because of their gender or sexual orientation," he said.
Mehlhorn said he and his spouse are longtime members of the LGBTQ+ community. While he said they've been lucky in their experiences through the years, other queer individuals have suffered. Mehlhorn said that uplifting them through difficult times is just the right thing to do.
“Everybody likes to be with their own and find people that have similar life experiences," he said. “People should help people.”
The donations that were dropped off Sunday will be available to those in need for pickup during the next Safe Space Market events. The first is happening December 17th at the Lakeside Farmer's Market from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Another market is happening December 18th in Carytown in the Wells Fargo parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The events will feature 40 vendors owned by LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs and people of color.
“It's just kind of a gathering place to get together and be around other people who are going to be supportive of who you are," Mehlhorn said.
Ryan said applications are still open to young LGBTQ+ individuals (27 or younger) in the Richmond area who would like to request gifts, assistance, or donations.
“We just want to let folks know that you are loved no matter who you are and where you come from," Ryan said.