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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Non-profit staffers, students, activists and other community members across the Carolinas are preparing to attend this month’s Creating Change (, the annual conference of the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force.

This year, the event will be held in Atlanta, slated for the last weekend in January. The conference, the largest of its kind, draws about 3,500 people from across the country each year. The 2013 event marks the conference’s 25th anniversary.

Laurie Pitts, programs and services director for Charlotte’s Time Out Youth, is among several non-profit staffers across the state planning on attending the Atlanta event.

Pitts attended the conference for the first time last year.

“I loved it and I learned so much,” Pitts said. “It’s an excellent place for folks who identify as or work with LGBTQ folks and youth, in particular.”

Pitts said the conference gave her an opportunity to meet and network with professionals and community volunteers doing work similar to hers.

“Normally, we do this work in a bubble, because we often are the only agency around that has been doing this for,” she said. “It was really great to get other perspectives from agencies that have been around for a while and do things a little differently.”

James Miller, executive director of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, is also attending the conference. He’s taking at least one board member and a volunteer and two students from a local high school’s gay-straight alliance.

“It is and forever will be the premier networking event on my calendar,” Miller said of the conference. “I am able to envelop myself with such esteemed leaders in the LGBT movement.”

Miller first started attending Creating Change conferences several years ago. Last year’s event in Baltimore was the first time he attended as an executive director of a non-profit. He said the conference has been a helpful resource in his development as a leader.

“There is no better way to cultivate relationships than this face-to-face conference and you get to come away with tons of resources that you never might have known otherwise,” Miller said.

Pitts will be accompanied by Time Out Youth’s newest staff member, Micah Johnson, who works as the group’s director of school outreach and gay-straight alliance support.

Pitts said the conference will give her and Johnson opportunities for conversations that aren’t usually possible at home.

“I’m excited for just having these conversations and seeing how other agencies are dedicated to being youth-run and youth-directed,” Pitts said. “It’s a really great meeting of the minds that doesn’t happen, especially in this area. It’s not likely that I’m going to be able to sit down with 100 folks who do some version of this work and have this conversation. It just doesn’t happen here.”

Other groups across the Carolinas are also planning to attend. South Carolina Equality Executive Director Ryan Wilson is planning to head to Atlanta with two interns and Columbia’s Harriet Hancock LGBT Center is taking seven youth leaders and six board members.

Campus Pride, a Charlotte-based national non-profit, will also be in Atlanta. On Thursday, Campus Pride Executive Director Shane Windmeyer, staffer Jess McDonald and others will lead a day-long seminar for LGBT college students. The group is also providing funding through an Alliance For Full Acceptance grant to help several Carolinas-area students attend the conference.

Stay tuned to qnotes and for more coverage of the upcoming Creating Change conference. From Jan. 24-27, check in for exclusive interviews and features from the conference, including interviews with local and regional leaders and features with national LGBT movement leaders.

Matt Comer previously served as editor from October 2007 through August 2015 and as a staff writer afterward in 2016.