While gathering for game night on New Year’s Eve 2021, Wallace Rae Salon co-owner John Fahey and friends discussed an issue they wanted to improve: the need for more LGBTQ-focused community activities in the Ozarks. They planned a slate of events for the upcoming year. “There weren’t many options geared toward a healthy lifestyle, and we wanted to have group activities outside of the bar scene,” Fahey says.
The Big Idea
“Developing a sense of a place and a sense of purpose for the LGBTQ community is really our mission statement,” he says. He created a nonprofit, 417 Out and About, with an accompanying Facebook group and advisory board. “My husband does [nonprofit work] for a living, and he knew how to set it up,” Fahey says.
The Learning Curve
“We started in March with a bowling league,” Fahey says. In May, they began to give cash prizes out to winners and then kept going with outdoor events in the summer. They added philanthropic endeavors, like a community service project with Rare Breed Youth Services. By June, though, Fahey realized a numbers drop-off was beginning to occur. “I hadn’t initially realized that people don’t stay around here,” he says. “We have a lot of college students who graduated and moved away. That has been a challenge.”
Fahey realized that the group would continue to evolve and change, but as he continued to make connections, the 417 Out and About Facebook group continued to grow. “We currently have over 400 members, and we’ve done all sorts of things, from Fantastic Caverns to ice skating to golfing,” he says. “Any age group is welcome. We have people all over the Ozarks.”