It’s official.

North Country Pride, a two-year-old organization dedicated to diversity and equality, recently received its official 501C3 non-profit designation.

It’s a milestone moment for the LGBTQ+ group, opening the door for more fundraising opportunities, and offering assurance it will survive long-term.

Although slowed by the pandemic, North Country Pride continues to plan events and initiatives, and grow its network of volunteers and community partners.

North Country Pride expects to participate in the Littleton First Friday Arts events on June 4, July 2 and Aug. 6, and aim to hold the second annual North Country Pride Ride on Sept. 12.

In addition, they are selling Pride Progress flags and North Country Pride window stickers (for suggested donations of $30 per flag, $20 for two stickers, or $40 for both), which they hope local businesses and homeowners will display. Proceeds will go towards future events.

Jill Kimball, a North Country Pride co-founder, said the group began in 2019 as a grassroots effort to promote equality and diversity north of the notch.

They officially incorporated in Feb. 2020 and — through a combination of celebration, education, empowerment and inclusion efforts — seek the make the North Country an open and welcoming place for LGBTQ residents and visitors.

“I think a lot of people think that we’re so far north, and we’re so very rural, that these things don’t exist up here. Of if they do, they’re in the shadows. And the reality is that we have a very vibrant LGBTQ community up here,” she said, adding, “We’re the people who own the businesses, We’re the people who shop at the Co-op. We’re the people who bring their neighbors food and groceries. We’re the people who are on the nonprofits. We’re just like everyone else.”

A year ago, North Country Pride had intended to celebrate LGBT Pride Month in June with a weekend-long festival across Bethlehem, Franconia and Littleton, with a full lineup of events and entertainment.

COVID put the kibosh on that.

As a compromise, they staged the Pride Ride in September. The car parade drew around 50 vehicles and followed a 15.2-mile route from Littleton Coin Company to Rek-Lis Brewing in Bethlehem.

Due to the lingering effects of COVID, North Country Pride will stage another Pride Ride and after-party this year, but the organization hopes to revisit its concept for a weekend-long festival in 2022, Kimball said.

Meanwhile, they continue to bring on new people.

North Country Pride currently has a core group of about 10 volunteers led by co-chairs Kerri Harrington and Kimball.

The organization is actively seeking more volunteers and members for its board of directors. Those interested in learning more can email northcountrypride@gmail.com.

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