Just Us is an Oasis Center program dedicated to serving high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or intersex. Over the last year, Nashville has seen and felt the impact of the tightening of budgets for services like OASIS, as the city lost its only safe sheltering option for LGBT youth (ages 18–24). The local community stepped in to mitigate this loss of services, but through Just Us Oasis continues to offer important services to LGBT youth.
From group meetings, where LGBT youth can enjoy the company of their peers and realize they are not alone in their struggles, to counseling, Just Us is not only changing lives, it is saving them. In Middle Tennessee, youth experience social isolation, bullying, lack of social networks, to name but a few obstacles they face. For many, Just Us is the primary, if not only, point of contact many youth have with the community and services they desperately need.
But Oasis serves a number of communities, and Just Us doesn’t pay for itself. Programs such as this depend on the financial support of the wider LGBT community in order to help our youth grow and thrive at a most important time in their development. To this end, EQUAL, the LGBT employee resource group of Dollar General, has partnered with similar groups at other Middle Tennessee businesses—Caterpillar, Dell, Deloitte, Fifth Third Bank, Lend Lease, Nissan, ServiceSource, and UBS Financial services—to host “Shades of Us,” a fundraiser benefiting Just Us on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, at the Nashville Ballet.
“The ‘Shades of Us’ event is the epitome of a ‘beacon of hope’ for LGBT youth in Middle Tennessee,” said Just Us founder Pam Sheffer. “Oasis Center and the Just Us program are incredibly humbled by this outpouring of support for our young people and their families. The proceeds from this event will help us secure desperately needed counseling services for our youth as they navigate through the process of acceptance, affirmation, and empowerment on the road to a full and happy life as their authentic selves.”
Sheffer believes today’s LGBT youth deserve a chance most of us never had. “Many LGBT adults,” she said, “never received the gift of counseling when they were teenagers struggling with their sexual and/or gender identity and as a result many are still struggling with feelings of shame, rejection, and isolation today. We want our young people to have every opportunity to have a life filled with hope and happiness right now and in the future.”
“Shades of Us” is shaping up to be quite an event. Headlining the event is The Voice Season 3 finalist Cody Belew. For Belew, this event was an opportunity to support a cause he views as vital. “I'm thrilled,” Belew said, “to have been asked to participate in the ‘Shades of Us’ event! The work that Just Us does for LGBT youth is crucial in a society where social media is king. My heart breaks every time I read about one of our youth taking their life because of bullying and the like. If Just Us is able to help ease the burden of those trying teenage years in even a small way, then I'm with them all the way!”
Another impressive act participating is the Eric Stuart Band. Even if you aren’t familiar with Stuart’s music, you may know him. Or his voice anyway. Stuart was the voice of Brock and James in Pokemon and of Seto Kaiba in Yu-Gi-Oh! For Stuart, this show is an opportunity to help make Nashville, now his home, a better place.
“It was an honor,” Stuart said, “to be asked to participate…. Anytime I can use the power of music for a good cause, I will. I grew up in New York in a very diverse community and have always believed in equality for all. This is just a small way I can give something back to my new home of Nashville and hopefully help create a safe and supportive community for the young people here. Come join us for a great night entertainment and help make a difference.”
Supporting Just Us is perfectly in line with the mission of performance group Nashville in Harmony, which recently held its own innovative show tracing the history of the LGBT rights movement, “Rock N’ Rule,” during Pride month. "We are proud to be singing to support high school students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or intersex,” said Don Schlosser, the group’s artistic director. “Our vision for our community is a place where no one is marginalized, stigmatized, abused, or discriminated against based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender non-conformity. And that's the whole reason that we sing!"
In addition to this impressive set of talent, the Nashville Ballet and comedian Barb Neligan will also be performing. So come out and support local LGBT youth through this amazing example of local corporate outreach and responsibility, and you are sure to leave entertained and uplifted.
The program, which will be held at the Nashville Ballet on July 14, 2015, begins with a VIP hour at 5:30, general admission at 6:30 p.m. VIP tickets are $100 and General Admission is $75, but all proceeds go to Just Us. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/shadesofus; purchase tickets at tinyurl.com/buyshadesofustickets.