PITTSFIELD — A new program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender seniors in the Berkshires is growing faster than its founder anticipated.
Rainbow Seniors will begin holding meetings in Pittsfield, a move Ed Sedarbaum said is due to its success in Northern Berkshire and his desire for a presence in the county's center.
A "getting acquainted meeting" is slated for Saturday from 2 to 4 p.m. at the conference room of the Berkshire Athenaeum on Wendell Avenue. The group will regularly meet on the first Saturday of the month at the same time and location.
The group also has new partners for events and is mounting an outreach effort in three small towns.
"The support we've gotten has been amazing," Sedarbaum, a Queens, N.Y., native who now lives in Williamstown, said recently.
About 15 to 18 people regularly attend the monthly meeting at the Williamstown Congregational Church, according to Sedarbaum.
"People are coming from all over — we have members who live in South County towns, and some travel from Franklin County and even the Springfield area," he said.
A typical meeting revolves around a potluck lunch and can include discussions on serious topics as well as entertainment.
"It's a diverse group," Sedarbaum said. "Members represent different races, sexuality, gender identity and economic backgrounds."
Sedarbaum, 70, founded a center for gay and lesbian senior citizens in New York City in 1995. Today, the center offers support groups, health screenings, advocacy and even acting classes to senior citizens who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning — a community often represented with the acronym LGBTQ.
Sedarbaum said he wanted to bring similar efforts to rural Berkshire County because there was little to no visibility of LGBTQ senior citizens.
Members will decide how Pittsfield meetings will be run and what programs or activities will be offered.
"It doesn't have to be the same organization as it is Williamstown," Sedarbaum said.
The group is also about socializing and having fun. To that end, the group is offering discounted tickets to Taylor Mac's Feb. 13 concert at the Williams College '62 Center for Theatre and Dance. For $3, members and their friends can see the award-winning actor, singer-songwriter and drag performer sing music from the 1770s, 1780s and 1790s.
On Feb. 19, two members will present "Straight Answers to Gay Questions" at the Adams Council on Aging. Questions could range from etiquette at a same-sex wedding to what to do when a relative "comes out."
"We wanted a program that would attract everyone, whether they're gay or straight," Sedarbaum explained. People growing up in the 1950s and 1960s "didn't see a single positive thing being said about homosexuality," he said, and many are still hesitant of being open about their sexuality.
Sweetwood Retirement Living Community supports the group's efforts and will cater lunch, Sedarbaum said. Attendees are asked to RSVP at 413-743-8333.
Sedarbaum hopes to host more events in Adams, Cheshire and Savoy using a $2,000 grant from the Berkshire Taconic's Barrett Fund.
They're small towns — Savoy has about 700 people — but one thing is for sure, Sedarbaum said.
"There are gay people everywhere."