The City of Huntington’s Open to All campaign reached a major milestone Wednesday, Feb. 6, in its ongoing effort to promote the community’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Patrick “Dr. Skip” Hart, who is the owner and co-founder of ASKDRSKIP.COM, PLLC, took the Open to All pledge during a brief ceremony at the CoWorks Building, 1000 5th Ave. Hart is the 100th business, church, nonprofit organization or civic group to officially become a member of the campaign, which launched in 2016.
The Open to All campaign works to engage the community in a welcoming and safe environment for everyone regardless of race, religion, ancestry, sex, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. The campaign was launched by the Mayor’s LGBTQ Advisory Committee and further advanced with the help of the Mayor’s Diversity Advisory Committee.
“My vision for the city is that we embrace our diversity and actively seek inclusiveness as we learn to stand as one people celebrating our differences,” Mayor Steve Williams said. “We will be able to transform our future by assuring every person in our city feels welcome.”
Although the campaign now includes 100 members such as small businesses, restaurants, nonprofit organizations, churches, law firms and annual festivals, some of the larger inductees include Marshall University, Cabell Huntington Hospital and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
While each Open to All member receives a decal to place on the outside of their establishment, the campaign goes far beyond the sticker. It offers free diversity training to all Open to All members and has helped push nondiscrimination policy changes that surpass federal or state protections.
As a result, Huntington’s score in the Human Rights Campaign’s annual Municipal Equality Index surged from 43 (on a 100-point scale) in 2014 to 95 this year. Huntington has had the highest score of any West Virginia city for three consecutive years.
Huntington’s Municipal Equality Index score, combined with the inclusivity of the Open to All campaign, was enough for Hart and his husband and business manager, J. Forsyth, to schedule a trip to Huntington in late August 2018 when they were considering relocating their home and business from Dallas.
“We both come from military families, and we wanted a sense of community and a place to lay our roots,” Hart said. “Once we saw Open to All in action and saw how kind and embracing the community was, it sealed the deal.”
By the end of October, Hart and Forsyth had relocated to Huntington and moved their practice, which specializes in functional medicine, into the CoWorks Building at 1000 5th Ave. Functional medicine is a science-based, patient-centered approach, considering the whole person and dealing with the underlying cause of illness allowing the body to heal naturally, rather than trying to suppress the symptoms.
Hart said the Open to All campaign is illustrative of the community’s devotion to diversity.
“Open to All was a huge factor in the decision to move, and it just makes us feel more comfortable knowing these establishments want us here,” Hart said.
For more information about the Open to All campaign or to request to join, go to the Open to All Facebook page at facebook.com/HuntingtonOpenToAll, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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