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rainbowfalls

Some members of the coalition pose for a photo after the very first Rainbow Falls meeting.

A new LGBTQ coalition has formed in Klamath Falls. It’s called Rainbow Falls, and it is already proving popular in the community.

The group is organized by individuals from Sky Lakes Medical Center, Oregon Tech, Klamath Community College, Klamath County Public Health and The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Klamath County as well as individuals from the community.

In a press release announcing the creation of the coalition, the group describes itself as, “a coalition that will center LGBTQ+ voices and perspectives in their work to better the lives of the LGBTQ+ community in Klamath Falls.”

Thus far, there has been one public meeting in late April and a meeting for those interested in leadership within the coalition. The next meeting is open to the public and will be held on July 12 from 6 to 8 p.m., in the Oregon Tech Treehouse, which is located in the college union.

Organizers of the coalition said the meeting is open to anyone, whether they are part of the LGBTQ community themselves or allies looking to support and learn about the community.

The organizers were shocked to see just how much support they received instantly. The first meeting reached capacity of the Lost River Room at Sky Lakes Hospital. It was estimated that over 30 people attended, and about a dozen people attended the leadership meeting.

The group is still forming and in the process of drafting a charter, but so far has decided to focus on connecting LGBTQ people with resources, educating the larger community, providing a sense of community, and advocating for LGBTQ specific healthcare.

Organizers of the coalition said the turnout was surprising, but indicated something they knew already — that there is a need for such a group in Klamath Falls.

“There’s a queer community here, it just hasn’t been organized yet, or we don’t all know each other yet,” said Wakaya Wells, Multicultural Coordinator at Oregon Tech and organizer.

Franny Howes, PhD and Associate Professor of Communication at OIT and organizer, explained LGBTQ people can feel isolated in a rural community such as Klamath Falls when there is no group to turn to.

“They may have trouble finding support in their faith community or in their family, and need that sort of family of choice. That support can affirm you, like yes, your identity is valid,” Howes said.

Wells said many people in the community who come from out of town don’t know that there are resources already available in the area, so the group hopes to connect people with resources that can be useful to them.

“One of our focuses is not only working on new things, but also providing a space in our community where we acknowledge that there are things here for you, you just don’t know it yet,” Wells said.

The organizers said that the healthcare professionals working with the coalition have been very receptive to the group, excited for input on how to better serve the varied LGBTQ community in the Klamath Falls area.

“It’s totally a multi-generational coalition. We have people from 18 to 71,” said Helen Petersen, Rainbow Falls organizer and KCC education board member.