By Natalie Chun
The Crowne Plaza White Plains, in partnership with local LGBTQ community center The LOFT, opened a special photo exhibit for pride week on June 27 in the hotel’s lobby.
The exhibit features photos from early LGBTQ marches and documents the beginning of this movement across the country, with a focus on Westchester specifically. The hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Tonya Inman, called it “a pictorial walk through history.”
During the event, Judy Troilo, executive director of The LOFT shared some of the history of the LGBTQ movement in Westchester and of The LOFT since its founding in 1983.
“Our community has gone through so much and right now, to be honest with you, we’re celebrating,” Troilo said. “We’re in a climate right now that is not the most LGBTQ friendly. So having our local community lift us up is amazing.”
Monika Henry, general manager of the Crowne Plaza White Plains says the hotel has a local and community focus and is an accepting place where people can gather and be comfortable.
“Because of pride month, we really wanted to support the community and show our support and appreciation,” Henry said. “A hotel is kind of a melting pot with not just our guests, but also our employees. There’s people from all walks of life, all age, all race, ethnicity. So it’s very fitting for us.”
Henry also said that she hopes to continue collaborating with The LOFT, which Troilo was excited about as well.
“We look forward to working with you more,” Troilo said, “and here in Westchester we all need to stick together.”
The LOFT is primarily focused on Westchester County but also serves the surrounding areas, including Putnam County, Rockland County, and even some areas of Connecticut. And in these areas, their main goal is to “advocate, educate and celebrate the LGBT community,” according to Troilo.
The LOFT serves over 5,000 people every year with a wide variety of programs, from youth programming to transgender peer support groups, and beyond. They put on events for pride month, provide helpline services, and free HIV testing.
“We have over 50 programs and services, so we’re tired,” Troilo said. “And the reason we’re tired is because we’re currently a staff of four. We’re hiring two new people but the beauty of the loft is we have over 175 volunteers.”
These volunteers work on a range of things from helping with mailings to group facilitators to social workers providing pro bono services. The LOFT works to serve the community while the community supports The LOFT as well.
And to continue this even further, Troilo says that The LOFT hopes to expand. They would like to have a greater presence in areas like northern Westchester and areas even beyond Westchester County, and generally, want to be more accessible to the public.
“If the community can’t come to our center, we’re looking at satelliting where we can come to the community and provide services,” Troilo said.
But even with all these different services, The LOFT’s goals are constant throughout: to create a safe space for people to truly be themselves, and to support the LGBTQ community.
“We want to make sure they never ever have to go back in the closet,” Troilo said. “And they can live their authentic self in a community with people that love them for who they are.”
The exhibit will be on display in the lobby of the Crowne Plaza White Plains until the end of the month.