New center offers 
haven from hatred
by Laura Cruz
El Paso Times

Victims of hate crimes have a new haven in El Paso.

Officials with LAMBDA Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services opened a new community center Saturday at 216 S. Ochoa.

"The whole purpose of the center is to provide a safe place for people to meet and plan," said Rob Knight, president of LAMBDA.  "When you walk through those doors, we don't care if you are gay, white, black or Jewish. All we ask is that you respect."

Knight said the center is needed in the community because there are very few places for gays and lesbians to go to get information about how to deal with violence, to get involved in the community, to use Internet 
services or to learn about AIDS and HIV.
"We have the bars and have a church, but outside of that, where can people go to meet other gays or lesbians?"  Knight asked.

Luis Mota, special events and youth group volunteer, said the center can be a lifeline for people who have experienced hate crimes.

The city has seen a gradual increase in the number of hate crimes since 1995, when only three were reported.

"There's a lot of ignorance," Mota said.  "There's not a lot of places in El Paso like this, which is the purpose of the community center."

The grand opening featured four guest speakers who have been affected by hate crimes toward the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.

They were William Wagner, 19, of Arkansas, and his mother Carolyn Wagner, a member of the National Board of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; Dorothy Hajdys-Holman, whose son Allen R. Schindler Jr., a Navy officer, was stomped to death in China by two navy midshipmen; and Gabrielle "Gabi" Clayton, whose gay son committed suicide a month after an assault against him.

The four speakers talked about their experiences, urged the community to get involved in speaking out against hat crimes and pushed for complete acceptance.

"I know that everything we do makes a difference," Clayton said.  "If my son in the moment he decided to take his life had reached out to a community center like LAMBDA, he might still be here."

           What: LAMBDA Community Center
           Where: 216 S. Ochoa
           Helpline: 915-562-4297
           Hate Crimes Hotline:  *update: 208-246-2292*
           Hate Crimes Documentation Network Web site: