Colette Roberts, the Columbia resident who co-founded and led the Howard County chapter of PFLAG, or Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, for the past 15 years, is stepping down Jan. 1, she said.

"It just felt right for me to move on. I had real mixed emotions," she said about leaving the 300-member group that includes members from around the metropolitan area. She said she felt that it was time for a new leader and that the group's members are very active, giving her confidence.

"I've got an awesome board of directors. Everybody pitches in and jumps in," she said.

Pat English, 53, of Gwynn Oak in Baltimore County, a nine-year member and the current membership chair, will take over the top post, though the prospect is daunting, she said.

"It's a little unnerving at times. It's a great organization," she said. Her goal is to increase membership and "get more people of color involved."

Roberts built the group as both a resource and advocate for families with a lesbian or gay member, helping to solve personal crises, while pressing county government for policy changes to help end discrimination against gay and lesbian citizens. The group sponsors a candidate's forum before each election to spotlight gay and lesbian issues and get commitments from candidates.

- Larry Carson

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