A group of local health care professionals, educators, clergy, parents, students, and concerned have come together to charter PFLAG Niceville, a support group for LGBTQ people and their family and friends, especially serving those in Okaloosa and Walton counties.

Their first support meeting will be Sunday, July 14, at 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Emerald Coast, 1295 N. Bayshore Drive in Valparaiso at the southeast corner of John Sims Parkway and Bayshore Drive. Everyone is invited to attend.

It will be especially powerful if you are a member of the LGBTQ community or a family member or friend with a story to share or questions that a peer-support group may be able to answer, according to a press release from the organizers.

Monthly meetings will be held every second Sunday of the month at 6 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

It took the local leadership team of 12 people more than six months to organize, plan, and file all the legal documents to form their nonprofit PFLAG chapter. But, as Logan Goodson, a health care administrator who lives in Niceville, said, “It will be worth it for the help it will be able to provide our local community. PFLAG Niceville offers a safe space for those who have been made to feel alienated by their society.”

Dr. David Simmons, president of PFLAG Niceville, and a professor of Humanities and Film Studies at Northwest Florida State College, said, “LGBTQ youth are eight times more likely to commit suicide and 120 percent more likely to be homeless than their peers. PFLAG Niceville is an organization that seeks to heal families, improve mental health and provide loving support."

For more information, visit pflag.org, pflagniceville.org, or email pflagniceville@gmail.com.