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| 1 min read | by Doug Marrin | dmarrin@thesuntimesnews.com |

Saint James Episcopal Church in Dexter formed “Open Hearts Club” for area youth who identify as LGBTQ and the allies who support them. The club’s first meeting of the new school year is this Thursday, Sept. 12, at the church located at 3279 Broad St. in Dexter.

Open Hearts Club begins at 5:00 pm and during the two-hour meeting teens and tweens will get to know the club, plan out meeting times and activities for the coming months, and socialize over snacks, caramel apple making, crafts, and other fun activities.

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The club formed out of a need in the area.

“Several of us at St. James realized that there are at-risk youth in the middle and high school that self-identify as LGBTQ,” says church member Janet Cook. “Some are members of the high school GSA (Gay, Straight Alliance) and GSA at Mill Creek Middle School.”

The church’s website describes its mission to LGBTQ youth as:

“Open hearts can lead to open minds, and open minds can lead to open hearts. Teens and tweens of all backgrounds and from any faith tradition—or none at all—are welcome to our open and inclusive teen gatherings. Youth eleven years old and up meet with members of the congregation on Thursdays from 5–7 pm for social time around food and conversation, seasonal activities, and focused time celebrating and understanding how we are similar to and different from one another.”

“People in our church community want them to know they are supported and loved!” Janet says.

Open Hearts Club is reaching beyond the Dexter area. At past events, youth from Howell, Pinckney, Chelsea, and Ann Arbor joined the Dexter kids in their fun and support.

“There is no other mainline church in Dexter that welcomes these kids as is, and offers support and a place to meet, eat and play ping pong, charades, make buttons, and talk,” Janet says.

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