Sandhills PRIDE announces Safe Zone sponsors

Sandhills PRIDE announced Kristen Moracco, REALTOR®, and Everything Pines Partners (EPP) as the first annual sponsors supporting its Safe Zone program.

The program provides training for various organizations to help participants better understand the issues that challenge the LGBTQ+ community and how to be informed allies to create safe and inclusive spaces for all.

“I am very excited and grateful to be able to share this wonderful news,” says Lauren Mathers, executive director of Sandhills PRIDE. “Kristen has been a longtime advocate for the LGBTQ+ community and an individual supporter of Sandhills PRIDE. When she contacted me about expanding her relationship with us, specifically in support of our Safe Zone program, I was thrilled! This has made a huge difference in our ability to expand presentations of these trainings.”

The Safe Zone program originally focused on K-12 educators and administrators, but Mathers has expanded it to include customized versions tailored for different audiences and lengths.

As part of this partnership, a training was held earlier this year for EPP Realtors, and two sessions will be included in a special event — People of the Pines — being hosted by the DEI Committee for Mid-Carolina Regional Association of Realtors (MCRAR) in downtown Southern Pines on September 13. In addition to the Safe Zone trainings, the event will include informational presentations from the West Southern Pines Civic Club and the NC Realtors Housing Foundation.

“I was asked if I would be the chair of the DEI Committee for MCRAR because of my advocacy and support of the LGBTQ community,” says Moracco. “I was raised in a household that valued inclusivity, equity, diversity, and kindness toward everybody, and I feel strongly that every person, every child, everyone should have the opportunity to have a safe space and a safe person to turn to. I think it’s only appropriate that we, as the Association’s DEI Committee, partner with organizations that support diverse communities because, even though I am a vocal ally and advocate, I don’t want to be a straight white woman trying to speak for others. I want to amplify the voices around me, so they can tell their own stories. That is how we can best support.”

The goal of the DEI committee is to bring educational training and resources to Realtors in this area in order to expand knowledge and understanding of the needs of different populations they may be serving. The committee is working to implement the at home with diversity certification course on a regular basis at MCRAR.

“As Realtors in the Sandhills, we meet all different types of people looking to relocate here, and we want everyone to feel welcome. Our code of ethics says that we agree to serve and treat everyone equally, and it is our vision that when our Realtors agree to that code, they are able to truly say that because they have been educated and informed and can advocate for the people they serve,” says Moracco.

With this sponsorship, Sandhills PRIDE has been able to expand the Safe Zone program to meet the large increase in requests for this training from local and international businesses, community organizations, schools, colleges, universities and places of worship.

In the first seven months of this year, Sandhills PRIDE has scheduled or completed twelve trainings — four times what they presented in 2022 — including multiple presentations at the 2023 NC State of the Child Conference in Goldsboro this past spring. Additional training is being planned for later this fall and winter.

“One of the most important things that came out of last year’s program and activity expansion was experiencing just how important having access to safe spaces and community representation and interaction is for LGBTQ+ people in this area,” says Mathers. “Our goal is always to provide more for our community — more advocacy, more support, more activities together, and more safe spaces for all. We are so fortunate to have local business leaders like Kristen Moracco and Everything Pines Partners supporting the expansion of this program that helps us do that.”

For information about hosting a Safe Zone training or donating to support this program, please email Lauren Mathers at [email protected].

Courtesy photo/Contributed.

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