Residents establish PFLAG chapter for Tolland, Mansfield

Nov. 3—TOLLAND — After acts of vandalism over the summer targeting the LGBTQ+ community, local residents have established a PFLAG chapter for the Tolland-Mansfield area.

Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays is a grassroots organization that has chapters in more than 400 communities across the nation, including five in Connecticut.

A support group for parents of LGBTQ+ youth has been meeting in Tolland since December at the United Congregational Church, but after a Pride flag sign on Route 195 was vandalized several times over the summer, there was a push for more organization and leadership.

The group decided that in order to grow and offer more services to the community, it was important to form its own PFLAG chapter.

"As a group, we want more people to be comfortable if they hear their kids are trans or gay," said chapter president Matilda "Tilly" Murray of Tolland.

Lisa Day Lewis of Tolland and Hanna Brinkhaus of Mansfield are members of the chapter's board, along with Murray.

Murray said the push for a PFLAG chapter was necessary because of everything it can bring, including training and advocacy for the community.

While a few trained counselors are in the group, Murray said, the training that will be provided by the national organization was a big incentive to form the chapter.

Murray had attended PFLAG meetings in Hartford and was put in touch with the regional director about forming a chapter in the Tolland-Mansfield area.

"It was not much different than starting any other nonprofit," Murray said.

Murray, transgender woman herself, said the group will help people realize that it does not have to be a tough life and that there are people available to offer support.

The chapter plans to have support groups for parents as well as LBGTQ+ adults and youth. It will also organize community programs, invite special speakers, and provide other LGBTQ+ resources and brochures.

The chapter will hold three informational sessions before its regular meetings begin in January. The sessions are set for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 14, at the Tolland Library, 21 Tolland Green; 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20, at the First Church of Christ, 549 Storrs Road, Mansfield; and 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, at United Congregational Church, 45 Tolland Green.

Matthew covers Coventry and Tolland for the Journal Inquirer.