Coalition on Diversity & Equity (CoDE) and Small Town Pride CT Unite
On Wednesday, December 6, CoDE’s Board of Directors unanimously approved making Small Town Pride – CT part of CoDE.
“We already had a deep commitment to one another and have supported each other’s missions, programs and activities,” said Amy D’Amaddio, president of CoDE. “Our broad goals – to create more welcoming and inclusive communities – mirror one another. This more formal alliance makes perfect sense – for both of our organizations and for the communities we serve.”
“We love that CoDE is including us into their mission of building ‘more diverse, equitable and vibrant communities’,” said Grace and Nickie Collins, co-founders of Small Town Pride – CT. “By working with CoDE, we can expand our community and support each other to spread the support and kindness.”
The Coalition on Diversity & Equity (CoDE) was formed in July 2020 by a group of town residents following the death of George Floyd and the first-ever rally for racial justice in Hebron. Since then, CoDE has become a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization serving the towns of Hebron, Marlborough, Andover, and Columbia. Small Town Pride – CT was formed in 2022 to make sure that members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially kids and teens, have a place to feel safe and supported.
“During our discussions over the past months, we became increasingly excited about joining together,” said Donna Jolly, vice president of CODE. “We knew from the start that we share common goals, values, and positive approaches to making change in our communities. We seek to work with others in the community and to make sure that all voices are heard. We aren’t afraid to speak up – but we do so with respect and an open mind. And we care deeply about our community and want to see it be the best it can be.”
Both groups have sponsored community events. CoDE has hosted nine community conversations, a workshop on understanding and addressing racism, Juneteenth Celebrations and Martin Luther King Jr. event. Small Town Pride – CT hosted the first Pride event in Hebron and a “Safe with Me” pin-making event. Both groups have received support from other nonprofits, faith communities, town leaders and departments and libraries, as well as from area foundations, businesses, and individual donors.
“Small Town Pride – CT has given people the chance to meet and get to know each other,” said 16-year-old Grace Collins. “I have definitely met some wonderful people that I don’t think I would have met without this group. We learned that many people in our small town are actually more supportive than we had felt before and they wanted to learn more.” Grace and her mom, Nickie formed and run the group.
All are welcome to join! Follow Small Town Pride on Facebook and sign up for CoDE’s monthly newsletter to stay in the know.
Message from the Founders
I wanted to start Small Town Pride – CT because I knew that people needed a place to go and feel normal and wanted and safe in my community. For kids in school, the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) is helpful while you’re at school but when LGBTQ+ kids get home they may not have the same support and a lot of times are not accepted at home. For adults in our town, and many small towns, there is no group to go to and be yourself. Small Town Pride – CT was started to give people a place to feel safe and supported.
My hopes for this group were to create a safe place for anyone in the community. I want the people in the group to show everyone kindness, even to the unkind people who do not support us. A lot of people who don’t support the LGBTQ+ community make us out to be bad, evil people, so by being kind in the face of hatred, it shows that we are not “monsters” (unless Lady Gaga is addressing us). We are just regular people that deserve to be respected.
For our first year, we started off small. We have sponsored a “Safe with Me” pin making event that we shared out with some of our local businesses. We attended multiple events in other small communities including the Coalition on Diversity & Equity’s (CoDE) “No Home for Hate” rally, Tolland-Mansfield PFLAG’s “Love is Love Valentine’s Day Skate” and June Pride events hosted by East Hampton Pride and the Southington Pride. We have joined the Connecticut Pride Forum and even hosted our very first Pride event in Hebron with the support of our local library and community members. We marched with our flags and smiles from the town hall to the library, had an amazing opening speech by Lindsey Pasquale to kick us off, and a ribbon cutting ceremony. The event was a ton of fun and we had over 100 attendees! I have been interviewed by several television and newspaper reporters during these events. The support is out there, sometimes we just have to find it.
Small Town Pride – CT has given people the chance to meet and get to know each other. I have definitely met some wonderful people that I don’t think I would have met without this group. We learned that many people in our small town are actually more supportive than we had felt before and they wanted to learn more. In our first full year, we only had one person yell derogatory words and one person spread their non-supportive message during our meetings and events. Yeah, those were not fun moments, but much less anger and hatred than we believed we would experience in our first year. And yes, we faced them with kindness, because that is how I wanted the group to be.
We love that CoDE is including us into their mission of building “more diverse, equitable, and vibrant communities.” By working with CoDE, we can expand our community and support each other to spread the support and kindness. We will bring the rainbows, because, as Kermit the Frog said: Rainbows have nothing to hide!
Grace Collins, Hebron resident (16 years old)
With support from her loving mom (and co-founder) Nickie Collins (much older than 16)