At 10:30 a.m. on Dec. 4, Flourish Point held a brunch and open house to commemorate World AIDS Day and celebrate the opening of their new location at 24 S. First W. St. #1. A rainbow Christmas tree lit up the corner of the open room, rainbow face masks were available by the front door and rainbow paper straws sat in a cup by the drinks. People laughed and chatted as they filled plates with sausage rolls, focaccia bread covered in vivid beet and carrot spread, crepes filled with marmalade and cream, savory quiche, donuts that dropped cinnamon sugar with every bite and more.
A new home
Flourish Point is an LGBTQ+ resource center in Rexburg. The organization’s mission, according to its website, is “to provide compassionate, evidence-based, accessible, and affordable mental health care and support services for minorities and people who identify as LGBTQ+ and their families.”
Chris Almasie, Flourish Point’s health and equity director, is excited for the increased opportunities the new, larger space gives them.
“It gives us the opportunity to actually run the programs we want to,” Almasie said. “One of the biggest issues we’ve had in the last six months has been that we don’t have a real home-base location where we can have movie nights or dinner nights, and now we have that space that’s big enough for 20, 30, 40 people, as much as whoever wants to show up.”
Besides monthly activities, Flourish Point offers many free or reduced-price services. The new building has a kitchen stocked with food essentials, a large room filled with clothes that serves as the “gender-affirming closet,” a bathroom with a shower and free health products of all kinds, a private therapy room and an open living room area for activities and meetings to take place.
But the people who run Flourish Point want to give people more than free supplies, as necessary as those things are. They are looking to create a home. Almasie feels proud that this first event in the new location has been able to start accomplishing that goal.
“It’s good to see so many people can help come and honor our new space and welcome it, and that we are able to show people what a home that we can provide for them,” Almasie said.
It’s not only the folks in charge that feel the warmth and happiness from Flourish Point. CJ Duncan, a sophomore studying environmental geoscience, attended the brunch and appreciated the safe space the organization creates.
“It’s amazing,” Duncan said. “Food is exquisite. And it’s wonderful, I love free food and I love this place.”
Elizabeth Mawlam, a Rexburg resident, baked all the foods for the brunch. She was happy to help her friends and contribute to an organization working so hard to do good in the community.
“It’s important that everyone is included and accepted in Rexburg,” Mawlam said. “There’s a lot of value in diversity, and inclusion is essential in every society and culture. If we really want to have a positive and rich society in every way, then it has to include everyone’s voice and it has to be based on love, which Flourish Point is all about love in every essence.”
Honoring World AIDS Day
Besides introducing the community to the new location, the Saturday morning brunch was held to observe World AIDS Day, which occurs yearly on Dec. 1. A box of red HIV awareness ribbons was placed by the door for people to pin to their shirts and coats in honor of people living with HIV that have had to endure struggles and stigma their whole lives.
Almasie, who was an HIV educator for two years, gave a short presentation on HIV and AIDS partway through the brunch. They clarified misconceptions by explaining that HIV can only be spread through direct blood contact and not through insect bites of any kind, sharing cutlery or kissing.
“We have medications that can stop the spread of HIV. We can make a person living with HIV actually live a long, full and healthy life even if they have to live with HIV long term,” Almasie said. “And so I really want to make sure people understand that HIV is not a death sentence. HIV is not a reason to be excommunicated from your loved ones or family or job, but HIV is just simply a diagnosis to live with, just another chronic illness along with many others on the list.”
Anyone can be infected by HIV. The CDC recommends everyone ages 13-64 get tested at least once. Flourish Point plans to hold a free HIV testing day in their new location soon. Check out their Instagram to stay updated on future events and their website to learn more about their services or give a donation.