Fostering Inclusion: Believe in Me’s $5,000 Award Empowers Pizza Klatch in Rural LGBTQ+ Support

Pizza Klatch and Believe in Me: Empowering Rural LGBTQ+ Youth

Believe in Me is proud to announce Pizza Klatch, a recipient of the 2024 Believe in Me grant. Based in Olympia, WA, this grassroots organization has been awarded $5,000 to bolster their Peer Support Groups, a crucial initiative providing a safe haven for LGBTQ+ youth in small-town and rural areas. This blog will delve into the vision, mission, and impact of both Believe in Me and Pizza Klatch, shedding light on the transformative work to create a positive and supportive environment for marginalized youth.

Pizza Klatch

Believe in Me’s Vision and Mission

Believe in Me envisions a world where all children can develop the self-confidence to succeed. Their mission is to fund youth empowerment programs that offer marginalized kids a safe space, a loving family, a sense of community, opportunities for learning, building self-esteem, and having fun. At the core of their values is a commitment to diversity and inclusion, creating a warm, inclusive, and friendly space where every individual can explore their potential.

Diving into Diversity & Inclusion


Our dedication to diversity and inclusion is unwavering. We are committed to equal opportunities for all, regardless of background or circumstances. Our goal is to nurture a community that celebrates individuality, providing an environment not just for survival but for meaningful growth and the realization of personal potential. This commitment is reflected in our comprehensive DEI policy.

Pizza Klatch
“Pizza Klatch is a small non-profit where one of the biggest issues we face as an organization is an ever increasing need for our programming without the capacity to meet it. Because of the generosity of funders like Believe In Me, we are able to continue our in school, lunchtime support groups which our anonymous surveys to students prove every year are not only life changing, but life saving. Students consistently report every school year a reduction of 60% and up in suicidal ideation and self harm as a direct result of attending klatches. Our costs to fully fund a klatch for one school year, which includes pizza costs, training costs, staffing, supplies, etc sits around $8,000. This $5000 grant from Believe In Me nearly funds an entire klatch for a whole year! We are eternally grateful for this much needed funding and we thank Believe In Me for supporting not only Pizza Klatch, but more importantly the LGBTQ+ youth of Thurston County!"
El Sanchez
Executive Director, Pizza Klatch

Pizza Klatch: Empowering LGBTQ+ Youth in Rural Communities

Pizza Klatch operates on the grassroots level in the heart of Olympia, Washington. At the core of their mission is a commitment to fostering inclusivity and support for LGBTQ+ youth. The $5,000 grant awarded to Pizza Klatch serves as a vital catalyst for their impactful Peer Support Groups. These groups play an indispensable role in creating a secure and affirming space specifically tailored for LGBTQ+ youth situated in small-town and rural areas.


In regions where isolation and acceptance challenges persist, Pizza Klatch’s Peer Support Groups stand as beacons of understanding and connection. The name “Pizza Klatch” is a nod to its origins; the organization emerged in response to a surge of suicides among LGBTQ+ youth in Thurston County, WA, back in 2007. A collective effort by private therapists, community leaders, and mental health professionals, in collaboration with the North Thurston School District, resulted in the creation of an after-school support group. However, due to disapproval and punishment from some parents, the group transitioned to lunchtime, and the first “Pizza Klatch” was served in February 2008. This strategic move provided LGBTQ+ youth with a safe and confidential place during school hours, ensuring they could freely seek support and community without fear of negative repercussions. 


Our grant not only provides essential financial support but also validates and amplifies the significance of these groups in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. By channeling resources into this pivotal initiative, Believe in Me is actively contributing to the development of a more compassionate and supportive environment for marginalized youth, ensuring they have the resources and community they need to thrive.

Pizza Klatch

Pizza Klatch’s Vision and Mission

Pizza Klatch envisions a future where LGBTQ+ youth are empowered to self-advocate, build community, develop confidence, and access resources as they explore their identities. They aim to foster resilience in LGBTQ+ youth and create a safe and positive school experience through support, education, and empowerment.

Addressing Marginalization

Most Pizza Klatch youth reside in small towns and rural communities in Thurston County, WA, or adjacent counties. The youth they serve are 51% BIPOC, 36% have disabilities, and 31% report family involvement in the justice system. LGBTQ+ youth, facing disproportionately high rates of homelessness, foster care, justice system involvement, discrimination, and harassment, find solace and support through Pizza Klatch.

Pizza Klatch
Pizza Klatch

Pizza Klatch & Believe in Me: A Grant for Rural LGBTQ+ Youth Well-being

The grant awarded by Believe in Me directly addresses a pressing community problem: the safety and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth, especially in rural areas. As LGBTQ+ and transgender rights face increasing challenges, programs like Pizza Klatch become critical for the mental health and overall well-being of young people in these communities.


The organization facilitates lunchtime peer support groups for  LGBTQ+ and allied youth aged 12-18 in middle and high schools, maintaining 28 groups across 14 high schools and one middle school in Thurston County. Staff and volunteers co-facilitate weekly meetings, providing information, emotional support, referrals, and systems advocacy to uphold students’ rights.

Believe in Me and Pizza Klatch: Lighting the Way to an Inclusive Future

Believe in Me’s support for Pizza Klatch exemplifies a commitment to creating a more inclusive and empowering world for marginalized youth. Pizza Klatch fosters resilience and self-advocacy through initiatives like the Peer Support Groups. It creates a positive and supportive school experience for LGBTQ+ youth. This collaborative effort between Believe in Me and Pizza Klatch is a beacon of hope, lighting the way for a more inclusive and supportive future for all.

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