Pride Festivals provide a vital point of connection between the local LGBTQIA+ community and local organizations and businesses. In keeping that spirit alive, our Community Spotlight feature will provide a deeper look at these organizations and the important work they do in our communities.
These organizations will be a part of our 2022 Pride festivities as well-- so be sure to learn more and plan to see them at our Pride festival next year!
ARROW Project is a local 501(c)3 non-profit with a mission to enhance resilience, empowerment, and self-advocacy within local communities by expanding mental health treatment possibilities for and within the Augusta County, Staunton, Waynesboro, Virginia area.
I asked Sabrina Burress, Co-Founder and Executive Director, to give us a closer look at the impactful work they are doing in our communities, their innovative partnerships and the power of collective impact.
Tell us about your organization!
"ARROW Project is a mental health nonprofit organization, based in Staunton, Virginia, and serving Staunton, Waynesboro, Augusta County, and surrounding areas. Our mission is to alleviate barriers to mental health services by creating innovative partnerships, programming, and professional development in the SAW Region of Virginia.
Our vision for how we make this works is through Collaboration, cultivation, and connection! Collaborating with local providers in private and group settings across allied professions and training programs to fill the cracks in the local mental health care system. Connecting community members to quality mental health services with a particular focus on individuals and families limited by systemic pressures. Cultivating the network of service providers by offering professional training and development opportunities for para- and pre-professionals as well as the continuing education for established clinicians."
How did you personally get involved in this work?
"I, like many of our leadership staff here at ARROW, have multiple years of experience in the mental health field. In fact, collectively, we have more than 30 years of experience! My desire was to take all that we'd learned about the field of mental health, specifically where/what were the gaps, and the what/why are there barriers, and create an avenue for change. We want to continually be providing programming, partnership, and training, and supervision that decreases those gaps, and breaks down those barriers. I think many of the pre and para-professionals that come to work and/or learn here at ARROW have the exact same idea in mind.
For me personally, co-founding ARROW Project brought me back to the roots of concepts deeply important to me; activism, advocacy, collaboration, innovation, and building from the ground up. Concepts that help me learn to thrive in this world. ARROW's grassroots/community-facing model of care feels like “coming home" to do the work that will shift lives, communities, and the way we navigate mental health. It's where I belong."
Sabrina speaking with incoming freshmen at Mary Baldwin University. ARROW Project has partnered with MBU to provide student supports for all students.
What's your favorite part of Pride Festivals?
"Seeing community in its realist and often rarest form. It's one beautiful thing to proudly identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. It's a whole other beautiful thing to see this diverse community come together, take up space, feel loved and seen and heard and supported, and be able to represent their truest selves!"
Do you have a favorite memory or performance from Pride?
"The first Staunton Pride in 2018 was something so magical that it's hard to put into words. But in line with what was my favorite part, seeing the community come to life I will never forget just watching all the people coming and going from the festival. Faces that I had surely seen before as a native of Staunton, but in many instances never knew were a part of/or supporters of the LGBTQ+ world. My favorite memory occurred actually weeks later, while in a thrift store downtown I ran into one of the beautiful souls I'd met during pride. We hugged and talked about life post the festival. It was like spending a moment with a dearest friend. So many friendships, I think were forged that first Pride that continues to this day. I am grateful for that!"
2018 Staunton Pride Warm Room: Sabrina and the ARROW Project gathered a group of 20 mental health- and energy work professionals to offer a supportive and affirming environment for festival goers. Folks could speak with a mental health professional, get access to mental health resources, and/or experience Healing Touch and Access BARS therapy.
"To #takeupspace to me represents an opportunity to live unapologetically into the life, the skin, the world in all the ways that feel best for you and to you. It means, living outside, above, and beyond all the expectations that society often levies against us. It means knowing you are loved and held and seeking continually to find the spaces where that can happen AND being courageous enough to create that in spaces where it didn't exist before.
ARROW Project thrives, I think because we not only hear the call of communities whose voices often get muted or missed. But we also answer that call as often as we have the capacity to do so, and when we don't we work hard to connect our community members to the person that can! We #takeupspace by keeping the conversation around mental health and wellness alive and present in the hearts and minds of community members." Why did your organization want to be a part of Staunton Pride?
"Because community partnership and collective impact are central pillars of our organization! Because we do more and serve more community members when we can find ways to do that together. Because we support the mission of Staunton Pride and have seen first hand the ways that this Festival and all the additional events bring life to the community!"
What is most important for the LGBTQIA+ community to know about your work or resources?
"The most important thing we want community members to know is that WE ARE HERE and we want to help you to #takeupspace in all its glory! You can find information about our programming at https://arrow-project.org you can find information about our partnership with the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center."