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Mormon couple opens home, hearts to LGBTQ people

A Mormon family has made its Provo, Utah, home a sort of sanctuary for members of the local LGBTQ community.
by Associated Press /
Taylor Steed, center, of Orem, and Nick Maughan, center left, of Provo, at a QueerMeals gathering
Taylor Steed, center, of Orem, and Nick Maughan, center left, of Provo, laugh at a joke as they and other community members eat during a QueerMeals gathering July 7, 2018, at Jeff and Jerilyn Pool's home in Provo, Utah.Isaac Hale / Daily Herald via AP

PROVO, Utah — A Provo family has made its home a sort of sanctuary for members of the LGBTQ community, especially those who need something to eat and a place where they can escape from suicidal thoughts.

Jerilyn Hassell Pool and Jeff Pool run their nonprofit QueerMeals out of their home, the Daily Herald reported.

The people that they serve typically do not have family and community members that they can depend on or have a difficult relationship with the Mormon church, Hassell Pool said.

Cameron Raps, right, reacts after cutting open a watermelon beside Jeff Pool during a QueerMeals gathering
Cameron Raps, right, reacts after cutting open a watermelon beside Jeff Pool during a QueerMeals gathering July 7, 2018, at the Pool's home in Provo, Utah.Isaac Hale / Daily Herald via AP

About half of the people that come in and out of their home daily are struggling with acute suicidal ideation, they said.

“We just want to keep people alive,” Hassell Pool said. “So many people here are not sure they want to live another day.”

Aside from meals, the Pools provide LGBTQ people with support and attention.

They moved to Provo from Oregon in 2016 to work with the LGBTQ community, particularly those trying to find their place in the Mormon church.

As a Mormon herself, Hassell Pool hoped to provide LGBTQ people with a space where they can gather and have a community.

“Our goal is to empower people to thrive, to find healthy and happy outlets for their sexual orientation and gender expression,” she said.

Their effort started as a small operation, but friends encouraged the couple to start a nonprofit after seeing photos on social media of their grocery hauls for the meals they provide.

Cameron Raps, who frequently visits the Pools, said QueerMeals has helped him through difficult times over the past year.

“Jerilyn has been with me for pretty much every step of it,” Raps said. “Pretty much every time that I’ve been in a bad mental state, I will text her.”

Although things are better now, Raps said he still makes a point to stop by at least once a week.

“It’s free, I can come here, hang out, and not be in danger of just being by myself,” Raps said. “I have someone to talk to and things to eat.”

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