Jonathan Barrio and CGN members enjoy Gaymer Gatherings monthly and cannot wait for more. (Photo Credit: CGN Officer of Photography Keilen T. McNeil)

In May of this year, the Plus Collective, formerly known as the Charlotte Lesbian and Gay Fund, awarded the Charlotte Gaymers Network (CGN) a grant for $2,000. CGN’s co-founder Jonathan Barrio says that these proceeds are being used to purchase more electronic equipment for future community events. What began on July 6, 2020, as a way for LGBTQ Charlotteans to connect during the pandemic has developed into a relaxing reprieve for many professionals, students and children in North Carolina. 

Ranging from a few thousand to $25,000, the Plus Collective’s annual grants have been doled out to ten organizations this year. The only Grassroots Lane Grant awarded went to the Charlotte Gaymers Network, as they are one of Charlotte’s smallest, yet rapidly growing, organizations. 

One of CGN’s most recent endeavors was a game day for the Time Out Youth Center (TOY). Free of any charge, CGN provided pizza, sodas and plenty of activities for local LGBTQ kids. “We set up six or seven consoles and just let them [TOY’s patrons] hang out together and do something fun,” Barrio recalls. He and co-founder Zach Smith have been hosting three major events every month. 

These community gatherings are typically open to the public; gaming stations and food and drink provided by CGN. Barrio confirms that the Plus Collective Grant has been instrumental in the creation of CGN’s signature event: the monthly Gaymer Gathering. “We have elected officials, bankers, lawyers, fast food workers, students — it doesn’t matter,” Barrio says. “Everyone is welcome.”

Another main tenant of CGN is philanthropy. With the Grassroots Lane Grant, the Charlotte Gaymers Network has started procuring enough equipment to go into pediatric wards and set up consoles for patients to enjoy. Although it is unlikely that this can become a reality during COVID-19, Barrio hopes to provide hospitalized children with the gift of video games; offering them a way to forget about their current situation and simply enjoy time connecting with virtual friends. 

CGN has also been chatting with The Relatives, a Charlotte-based nonprofit that seeks to provide aid to children and families in crisis. Despite CGN’s LGBTQ focal point, Barrio stresses that they would like to branch and host events for those from all walks of life, in addition to those who identify as part of the LGBTQ community. 

The next Gaymer Gathering will take place September 3, at Tabbris in Charlotte’s South End neighborhood. This event is free and open to the public. However, CGN is abiding by all CDC guidelines, so time and location are potentially subject to change. 

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