OREGON, USA — The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) is expanding its list of grantees for 2022, again distributing money to organizations around the state that serve the LGBTQ+ community.
"Something that is needed," said Kristina Kindel of OCF.
Over the last year, OCF said 50+ LGBTQ-focused groups received $700,000 in grants. It announced new recipients for 2022 during Pride Month, with several new organizations in more rural and underserved Oregon communities.
"There's a perception ... gay people don't live in rural places or people of color don't live in these rural places," Kindel explained. "And that's just not true at all."
One new group receiving grant funding is Gather Repertory in Newberg, a newly formed community theater organization. Its first production will be an all-inclusive version of the 1930s play "Our Town."
Tensions have been high in Newberg since the school board voted 4-3 last year to ban Black Lives Matter and Pride flags, among other "quasi-political symbols."
"There has been a lot of divisiveness," said Reid Arthur of Gather Repertory and a recent graduate of George Fox University. "We've all been feeling this great sadness and dread over everything that's been going on."
Arthur famously came out during a performance at George Fox in 2019. He said his team's rendition of "Our Town" will send a big community message.
"Reclaiming the narrative," Arthur said. "To make everyone feel included and that this town, regardless of what the school board may say, this is their town as well and all are welcome here."
OCF grants will help the production pay its artists and crew, which is uncommon in community theater. Audiences in late July and early August will also have the option to pay what they want to see the show.
Basic Rights Oregon is another group to receive grant funding.
Executive director Nancy Haque said the group's advocacy is critical right now as politicians and school boards target LGBTQ+ people, particularly transgender and nonbinary youth.
"We're out here fighting for them," Haque said. "If you believe in an individual's rights, then it's people's right to be who they are."
"We're seeing more and more Oregonians recognize the challenges for LGBTQ+ communities, from discrimination in schools to youth experiencing homelessness after coming out to anti-trans [families] and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation proposals across the country," Kindel said. "At the same time, seeing the compassion and solidarity of people standing together to amplify LGBTQ+ voices is heartening."
More than a dozen of organizations are receiving OCF grants, with a full list online.