By Jacki Wood

Providing a safe and accepting environment for those in the LGBTQIA+ community has been the goal of a relatively new group in Maryville.

Over the past year, Common Grounds has offered a place for community members to gather where they can be their true and authentic selves without fear of reprisal or rejection by society.

“We provide a safe, welcoming and accepting environment where those in the community can be themselves,” Lance Lewis, a member of the group’s leadership team, said, “while seeking and working toward self-acceptance and actualization.”

Lewis said he has loved ones who have been hurt, harmed and killed by hate.

“I still see and hear the hate and aggression my community lives with daily in the area,” he said. “The need that Common Ground is fulfilling is to be a safe space for local queer individuals to be loved and accepted for who they are.”

The LGBTQIA+ affirming group was formed in the summer of 2020 and started meeting later that year. Lewis said they typically meet every other Thursday in Maryville.

“I want people to be aware that who attends the meetings and what they say in meetings is to be left in the meetings,” he said. “Not all of our attendees are out of the closet. Remember we are a safe place for everyone to be their true and authentic self.”

Meeting details are posted on the group’s Facebook page and Discord server. For more information, visit