OAKLAND, Calif. Amber Lee/KTVU - It's a historic night in Oakland on Thursday. The city's first LGBTQ had its grand opening.
Until now, it was the only major city in the state without one.
The center is located inside a building on Lakeshore Avenue.
The founders say it's much needed to serve a growing population.
The two men who founded the Oakland LGBTQ Community Center call it a beacon of light.
"We're a major city. We should have a major center and now we do," says Joe Hawkins, co-founder of the center.
Hawkins and Jeff Myers, both long time Oakland residents used tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to open this center.
"No one had taken the initiative. It's really that simple. To start something , you have to want it bad enough, you take the initiative . we wanted it bad enough," says Hawkins.
They say after the presidential election, minorities whether it be by race, gender or sexual orientation, experienced a hostile political climate.
The co-founders say this center will offer safety and free services.
"I wanted a place to go to where I feel home, a place I can come to talk to people who understand me in this environment. There's a lot of hate," says Jeff Myers, co-founder of the center.
The men say since last November, hate crimes in California are up by 11 percent.
"The top two categories: African Americans and LGBTQ people. We are the biggest targets of hate," Hawkins.
Members of the LGBTQ community and their supporters came to see the new facility.
Among them was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
She says this center is overdue but timely.
"I invite every Oaklander to come to this center and find out how you can support this community right now
One sponsor donated $10,000 on this night.
The founders say the center will rely on donations. it is staffed with volunteers .
Supporters say the center represents more than gay pride.
"It's not to show we're a different community. It's to show this is part of the community," says Manifair Hwang, a supporter.
The grand opening coincides with Oakland Pride which will be celebrated this Sunday. The center opens its doors to offer services Monday.
Hawkins say when he helped start Oakland Pride in 2009, it was his goal to open a LGBTQ Community Center.
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