For the founders of SOAR: Seeds of Acceptance Rutherford, Mandy Ray-Jones and Rebekah Dawson, it was not difficult to see that there was a lack of support and education for the LGBTQ+ community in the Murfreesboro area. Aside from MT Lambda, an MTSU organization for which Dawson serves as president, there were no resources for the Rutherford County area and none available to the general public. After the election, Ray-Jones decided it was time to follow through with her plans to create a safe space for gender and sexual orientation minorities living in and near Murfreesboro.
In January, Ray-Jones teamed with Dawson and some of her other friends. They held a summit at local bakery Simply Pure Sweets. Response was overwhelming and, as it turns out, other people felt this was an emergency situation as well. Since that day, SOAR has been hosting a variety of events and activities around the city of Murfreesboro such as packing lunches for local homeless youth, a board game and potluck gathering, and a rock painting/rock hiding party. The group has also formed a book club that meets quarterly at Linebaugh Library.
On the horizon is a Nashville CARES volunteer training session, speaking about gender stereotypes at Southern Girls Rock and Roll Camp, and partnership with local theater group Radical Arts. The group is important, Dawson says, because, “A lot of parents don’t know where to go when their kid comes out. SOAR can provide guidance in these situations which is vital since the kids’ home climate impacts their future dramatically.” Volunteer Amber Douglas says, “I’d like to see SOAR create more openness in general, especially among members of the population who struggle with misunderstanding issues faced by the LGBT community.”
The people who created this initiative want to see positive change in the lives of people being impacted by the current political climate. Putting a face to the members of a community so often ostracized, bullied, rejected or worse could help foster a new point of view for people struggling to accept those who are not like themselves. Part of the goal SOAR had from the very beginning was to put the LGBTQ+ community in the public eye as people who give back, do good things, eat pastries, drink coffee, and exist just like everyone else.
Upcoming Events and Activities:
LGBTQ+ Support Group featuring Coffee and Dessert: Saturday, August 19th, 12:30-2:30 pm Simply Pure Sweets, 118 N Walnut St #2, Murfreesboro, TN 37130. At this gathering, we’ll have a regular social/support meeting and we’ll also do some prep work for Boro Pride.
BoroPride: Saturday, September 9, Murfreesboro Square.
SOAR Book Club: Saturday, October 7, 10:30-12:00pm, Linebaugh Public Library
LGBTQ+ Support Group featuring Coffee and Dessert: October 21, 12:30-2:30pm, Simply Pure Sweets, 118 N Walnut St #2, Murfreesboro, TN 37130. This month, we’ll enjoy a regular social/support meeting but attendees will also have the chance to participate in a service project that benefits local homeless youth.
Volunteering with MT Lambda for the Transgender Day of Remembrance, Saturday, November 18, MTSU campus.
LGBTQ+ Support Group featuring Coffee and Dessert: Saturday, December 16th, Simply Pure Sweets, 118 N Walnut St #2, Murfreesboro, TN 37130. At this meeting, we’ll do our normal social/support gathering but add some holiday card creating for our friends at Nashville CARES.