Updated: Mar 11
I had been laying up at night, scrolling through messages of support I had received from people all over the world after our episode of “We’re Here: Sussex, NJ” aired on December 16th. The overwhelming gap across the country and here in Sussex was the lack of community for those who did not fit into other activities or social groups. I am one of those people. I've always longed for a place where I felt like I truly belonged.
Bob the Drag Queen looked at me during filming and said it on the episode: “Ashley has to realize that there is only so long that she can desperately search for a community before she creates one for herself.”
The more I thought of that, the more I realized that if I was going to create a community for myself, you’d best believe I was going to do my best to create a safe and inclusive safe for everyone.
(Photo Courtesy of Fran Ruth Harris of Tri-State Lookout).
On December 28th, 2022, Simone and I spoke on the phone. It was spurred by a late-night text message from me to Simone simply stating, “I have an idea. I want to know what you think about it…” By 10 am the next morning, Simone and I were talking about the first details of what is now the Homeward Community.
That week, I created a website, a shop, a blog, and social media handles to include our Homeward Facebook Group. What happened next… The Community Formed. Rapidly. The growth of the community, the interactions among the community, and the connection the community fosters makes my heart sing on so many levels.
Marlene Middleton and her daughter Claire (Photo Courtesy of Fran Ruth Harris of Tri-State Lookout).
To be honest, I did not realize how much I needed this community before it took its first breaths. Now, I can't picture a Sussex County without it.
Our second Homeward Meeting has been a topic that bounces around my mind and in my heart often throughout the days and weeks since. After a chaotic day at work, followed by appointments that took up more time than I had expected, and with my upcoming surgery taking up a lot of my emotional and mental space, I rushed to the meeting at Cafe e Dolci in Franklin.
Raven and Simone (Photo Courtesy of Fran Ruth Harris of Tri-State Lookout).
When I arrived, more than ten community members smiled and waved as I walked in. With another six community members joining throughout the “pop-in”. The chaos of the day faded. When I walked in and gave hand-shakes, hugs, and introduced myself, the love, care, support, and acceptance for myself and each other was overwhelming in so many ways.
It felt like coming home.
What Simone, Mary, Jenny, and I have created is more than a non-profit, it is a family. It is safe harbor for those who have yet to find it elsewhere. It is needed conversation with a lot of love. It is Home for all of those who want it.
Homeward is for anyone who has ever felt different, for anyone looking for community, connection, inclusion, love, and support. And I have never been prouder of a community than I am of each of my members of Homeward. To each member of Homeward, thank you for being my family.
Abby and Donna (Photo Courtesy of Fran Ruth Harris of Tri-State Lookout).
I will look forward to seeing you on March 11th, 2023 for our Virtual “Pop-In” and I will be scheduling an in-person meeting ASAP. I can’t wait to see you there!
Much Love Always,