Meet Ryan Key, A Leader of Dominion Energy’s Pride Employee Resource Group


Ryan Key is an active member of Dominion Energy’s Pride employee resource group, one the largest such organizations in the region, and he says it has given him the confidence to live and work as an openly gay man.

It wasn’t always that easy for Ryan who was born and raised in Suffolk with a strict mother and mostly absent father.

“It was hard for a long time,” he said. “And after I did come out my mother and I didn’t speak for a years.”

That all begn to change when Ryan joined Dominion Energy in 2015 as a customer service intern. Two years later he joined the newly-formed Pride employee resource group was launched

“Employee resource groups help employees bring their whole selves to work, he said. “A lot of times, members of the LGBTQ+ community are hiding who they are, but it is comforting to work for an employer who wants and encourages you to bring your full self to work.”

Today Ryan is out at work and in his personal life. He serves as Dominion Energy’s community-focused lead for the Pride resource group and liaison to local organizations bringing a presence in the community at festivals, career fairs and more.

Listen to Ryan’s story.


Try these amazing New York hot dogs and help rescue a dog at the same time


Visitors to the Riverview section of Norfolk now have a new and unique dining option. The Pittie Dog Grill recently opened at 4140 Granby Street and will celebrate with a Grand Opening event this weekend.

Conceived, owned, and operated by Larry Sauger and Karl Neumann, the restaurant simultaneously pays homage to their upstate New York roots as well as their pet pit bulls.

“There’s a there’s a grouping of restaurants in Buffalo that we grew up with just have a really good hot dog that they chargrill,” said Larry. “They also have a topping bar, and customers choose their own.”

Ken said the concept was born out the indisputable fact that a good hot dog is hard to find.

“Those dogs were the best, and we always found there are no real decent hot dogs here,” he said. “For the grill, we purchase from Sobrato in New York City, which is actually just a good flavorful hot dog.”

So where does the pit bull come in?

“We own to Pittsburgh pit bulls, and everybody thinks pit bulls are this trash breed, the same way we thought about local hot dogs,” Karl said. “So the name dispels both preconceptions that a hot dog can’t be great and a pit bull can be good.”

The couple is planning to donate a portion of their proceeds every month starting in January to  a different dog rescue. From now until the end of the year, they are donating proceeds from the sale of all T shirts and hot sauce to Norfolk Animal care and the SPCA living the proceeds of all of our T shirts or hot sauce. Add any donations we receive between them.

Larry and Karl are long time and active members of the local LGBTQ community.


Pittie Dog Grill Grand Opening Weekend

November 4 and 5, 11am-7pm

4140 Granby Street, Norfolk

LGBT Life Center CEO and board of directors address allegations, propose solutions


Editor’s Note: Stacie Walls, CEO of the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk, and the Board of Directors last night sent an email to constituents addressing concerns raised by The Virginian Pilot in a September 27 article.  The content of that email is published here in its entirety.


A Message From Our CEO, Stacie Walls, & Our Board of Directors

Dear LGBT Life Center Friends and Allies,

Leading a nonprofit service agency is not without its challenges, and even after 22 years, I am constantly learning and growing in this role. Being labeled as difficult or accused of fostering a toxic work environment is a humbling experience, and one that I do not take lightly, especially when the goal is to always provide the best services to our community and staff. Over the years at this agency, I have worked with some amazing people. I also acknowledge that some people’s experiences should have been better. I want to assure our team that my intentions are and always have been rooted in creating an inclusive workplace where everyone can thrive and feel comfortable so that we can serve our clients with the highest level of care and compassion. One of my favorite quotes is “when we know better, we do better.”

Over the last several weeks, we have taken time to talk to our leadership team, communicate with our staff, and hear from our community stakeholders like donors, funders, and volunteers. We are now in the process of implementing several internal employee programs and trainings that all staff, including myself, participate in, and I am committed to making continuous improvements for our agency and the community. We all share the responsibility of making this organization a better place to work, and I’m doing my best to lead by example. Our mission to serve this community remains steadfast and strong.

Together, with the LGBT Life Center’s Board of Directors and our management team, we have pinpointed areas for improvement to better align the workforce and workflow with our mission and values, and to support the ongoing expansion of our crucial services to the community and this region:

We created a new position and are now hiring for the role of Human Resources Manager at LGBT Life Center. This role will implement and shape policies and procedures, employee development, and HR compliance to ensure a thriving and harmonious workplace that nurtures the professional growth of its workforce. Learn more and apply for this job HERE.

We have created an onboarding committee to restructure the process for new employees’ orientation to ensure in-depth training for all new staff members.

In addition to the trainings we have had this year, we are re-establishing an internal Racial Equity Committee and Employee Resource Groups to advance our DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) efforts, and to promote a supportive work environment where all employees feel heard and valued.

We are conducting our 2nd internal Climate Survey for the year, with results delivered directly to the Board. The first Climate Survey was in February 2023. A portal has been created for staff members to submit anonymous questions, feedback, and comments.

We will make publicly available a detailed yearly report that outlines our performance and services.

To better guide and advise the leadership of The Center, we will be announcing new Board Members and conducting another board training with CenterLink. Our Board is committed to growing a more diverse and inclusive governing committee that is more representative of the staff and the clients we serve.

Some recently published inaccuracies concerning The Center have prompted us to offer insights into our programs and history:

LGBT Life Center has a track record of managing funds with the highest level of integrity, a fact substantiated by multiple third-party audits. Our organization is subjected to annual audits and stringent monitoring for each grant received, and we maintain a strong record of financial responsibility, which has resulted in us often being re-awarded grants upon the conclusion of grant cycles.

LGBT Life Center concluded a medical partnership due to disputes over contract terms, specifically around a shared savings agreement. As there is an ongoing lawsuit, we are advised not to comment further. However, the existence of a lawsuit does not imply wrongdoing on our part. This lawsuit is in no way connected to mismanagement of funds.

Our housing services are secure. The LGBT Life Center receives multiple grants to operate supportive housing programs serving 270 client households monthly. Those grants were expanded significantly during COVID to provide emergency assistance to more people at risk of becoming unhoused. We are proud of the fact that we provided extensive services during that time, but it also challenged our infrastructure, which was similar to the experiences of other organizations. We were and always have been committed to ensuring that clients remain stably housed while in our programs. There are occasions when people may be evicted for reasons outside of the agency’s control, but it is very rare. Our team works hard to prevent evictions, and we strive to provide support to clients throughout the whole process. Grant guidelines are very strict and rigid about the type of support and assistance we can provide, which sometimes limits the available assistance, but our housing team encompasses some of the most compassionate and resilient staff who do their best to serve the needs of clients. Clients are empowered to manage their leases and utilities, which can sometimes create difficult learning experiences for everyone involved, but we remain adamant that The Center has no record of directly causing an eviction or utility shut-off due to non-payment. We acknowledge that there was a difficult transition for our accounting and bill paying services that may have resulted in late payments at times, but we strived to correct that for our clients housing security.

The Center left Court One (Ghent location) because of ongoing maintenance and parking challenges. The neighborhood has grown, which is great for the City of Norfolk. The space was no longer feasible for our programs, clients, and staff due to our growth.

As a multi-year winner of Outwire’s Gay HRVA’s “Best of” poll in the categories of ‘best LGBT affirmative employer,’ ‘best LGBT nonprofit,’ and ‘best LGBT medical provider,’ we have the utmost confidence in our organization, our leadership and staff, and the work that we do.

As always, we welcome your feedback and questions, which can be submitted through our community feedback portal.

Humbly and in Community,

Stacie Walls, CEO, Lisa Stafford, Board President,
& The LGBT Life Center Board of Directors

Williamsburg’s Pridecon Returns for a Second Year this Weekend


Williamsburg’s first Pride Festival, Pridecon, returns for its second year this weekend at the Williamsburg Community Building from 12-7 PM.

“Our theme this year is Bright and Brilliant,” said organizer Michael D. Jones. “We were so pleased with the succes of last year’s event that we’re not changing too much this year except growing in terms of vendors and attendance.”

Attendees  at he fanily-friendly event can expect a number of Peninsula area vendors, food trucks, costume contests with cash prizes, and entertainment.

Pridecon is produced by Love is Love Tidewater and PFLAG Williamsburg, and is free and open to the public.

Wanda Sykes Returns to Norfolk on March 15


Portsmouth native and comedienne Wanda Sykes returns to the road with her ‘Please & Thank You’ tour, coming to Chrysler Hall Theatre in Norfolk on Friday, March 15, 2024.

Tickets go on presale today with the general on sale starting on Friday, October 27 at 10 AM

Sykes is nominated for two 2023 Primetime Emmy Awards for her latest Netflix Special, Wanda Sykes; I’m an Entertainer – “Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special” and “Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Special.”

“I’ve been doing dates sporadically throughout the years, but this time, I’m doing a legit tour, and I’m very excited about it,” Sykes said.


[OPINION] Why we still need National Coming Out Day


National Coming Out Day is a worldwide annual celebration on October 11, and it’s been celebrated since 1988 on the one-year anniversary of the 1987 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. In the 35 years since then, it may seem that Coming Out Day may be a bit antiquated. But the truth of the matter is we need a Coming Out Day more then ever.

Here’s why:

  • Coming out is a unique experience for each LGBTQ+ person. It’s not a one-time event. It’s a lifelong process. Many LGBTQ+ individuals who come out to their closest friends and family may later come out at work or school, to their extended family, or to casual acquaintances.
  • Talking about coming out and sharing our stories can help to strengthen our community and support one another with this experience. While coming out can be daunting and scary, it can also be the first time that LGBTQ+ individuals are able to be truly open with the people closest to them.
  • Over the last few decades since National Coming Out Day was first recognized, we’ve seen huge legal and social progress for the LGBTQ+ community. However, these developments don’t mean that the fight for LGBTQ+ rights is over. Across the globe we continue to see LGBTQ+ people suffer from attacks, hate, and abuse. LGBTQ+ people are still campaigning for laws and attitudes alike to change. For many, coming out can be dangerous – or simply not an option. Coming Out Day reminds us that this fight is far from over.
  • For those who are questioning their identities or living in an unwelcoming environment, seeing someone come out – whether it’s on Tik Tok, in your family, a teacher, or your best friend – can offer a feeling of hope, solidarity, and reassurance.
  • Most importantly, whether you identify as LGBTQ+ or an ally, celebrating National Coming Out Day is an important way to raise the visibility of our communities and reminds us all of the ongoing struggles LGBTQ+ people face just for being themselves, but also of the joy and pride of being openly LGBTQ+.