Media release

Grants will serve RI’s LGBTQ communities

Funding will support everything from civil rights advocacy for families and youth to improving the delivery of health care

Fifteen nonprofit organizations serving the state’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) communities will share nearly $90,000 in grants through the Equity Action Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

“We are proud to have the resources to support work that helps every Rhode Islander feel safe and embraced being their authentic selves,” said David N. Cicilline, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “Thanks to the continuing generosity and commitment of donors to our Equity Action Fund, the Foundation has been able to provide uninterrupted grant support to organizations on the front lines of advocacy, youth services and health for nearly 20 years.”

Guided by a volunteer advisory committee comprised of leaders in the LGBTQ communities, the Equity Action Fund supports projects that meet the needs of the LGBTQ communities in Rhode Island. This year’s recipients are:

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center received $2,500 to collaborate with the Newport Health Equity Zone’s LGBTQIA+ Working Group to expand the LGBTQIA+ Safe Zone certification non-health care organizations. There are already 10 certified Brave Spaces (Belonging, Respect, Acceptance, Validity, Equity) related to health care organizations in Newport County. The working group hopes to add five BRAVE Spaces hosted by non-health care organizations.

“For organizations to be certified, they must meet a set of criteria, including providing staff training specific to the care of the LGBTQIA+ communities and clearly displaying their non-discrimination policy. The hope is that with increased safe zone locations in Newport County, the LGBTQIA+ community will view their surrounding community as helpful, supportive and welcoming,” said Heather Strout, executive director.

Family Service of Rhode Island received $5,000 to support its LGBTQ+ Training Initiative. The organization will engage a consultant to provide training to all 250 employees as part of its growing commitment to equity.

“Give the alarming spike in transphobic and homophobic incidents, our mental health services are more critical than ever. This will make our team better equipped to support each other and to continue supporting our LBGTQ+ clients across Rhode Island,” said Margaret Holland McDuff, executive director.

The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre received $2,500 to support its free theater classes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and other sexual and gender minority youth, primarily age 13 to 18.

"The goal is to address the unique challenges facing the LGBTQIA+ community through theater classes that help to empower and uplift youth participating in the program. At The Gamm, we hold fostering strong connections and a sense of belonging as an integral part of our core values and work. This program is an example of exactly that," said Jason Cabral, executive director.

The Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England received $5,000 to expand its Gamma Sigma program, which serves middle school and high school students without the traditional binary nomenclature. GSSNE expects to serve approximately 100 scouts through this program at Highlander Charter School and five additional schools or community-based sites during the 2023-24 school year in partnership with the Providence After School Alliance.

“Our actual name – Girl Scouts – centers the experience on a word that has strong gender connotations. Yet, every year the number of transgender and gender-expansive youth we serve grows. Our Gamma Sigma program ensures we provide a safe and inclusive program that neutralizes the gender terminology and protects the mental health of LGTBQ, questioning and allied youth,” said Dana Borrelli-Murray, CEO.

GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) received $10,000 to support its ongoing civil rights advocacy in Rhode Island, including convening LGBTQ+ advocates to promote public policy improvements and to defend against anti-LGBTQ attacks, improving the name-change process for youth and adults, calling for legal protections to shield providers and patients receiving gender-affirming health care, and joining efforts to address attacks on transgender youth in schools.

“LGBTQ+ families and youth are facing unprecedented and rising attacks and hate, both nationally and here in RI. Our work will strengthen the state’s protective legal framework for LGBTQ+ residents,” said Janson Wu, GLAD’s executive director.

Haus of Codec received $10,000 to support the organization’s work providing emergency housing for LGBTQQIA+ youth ages 18 to 24. The organization served 35 young adults with housing and supportive services last year.

“This demographic sees a more significant risk of violence and abuse in larger, less amenable shelter spaces. Our six shelter beds provide young people with the safety and stability that enables them to access the services they need to thrive,” said Julio Berroa, executive director. “Our location in the West End puts us within walking distance of many LGBTQQIA+ affirming partner resources, including food and clothing pantries, access to primary care physicians, housing clinics, harm reduction services, HIV and STI testing services; and public transportation.”

Meals on Wheels of RI received $2,400 to support its Capital City Café Program, which offers older LGBTQ+ adults lunch once a month in a local restaurant in Providence. Meals on Wheels does not charge participants, but suggests a voluntary $3 donation per meal.

“By simultaneously offering nutritious meals and the opportunity to socialize in a space they feel safe in, we help improve their physical and psychological health, decrease their feelings of isolation and loneliness and increase their peace of mind,” said Meghan Grady, executive director.

Newport Pride received $3,000 to support Queer Connections. The program fosters and strengthens queer connections through group activities including playing games, discussing literature and watching movies.

“It's all about having a great time while connecting with like-minded individuals. We take immense pride in creating a safe and welcoming space for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community to process, express themselves and find support. Your presence matters. Together we're building a stronger and more connected LGBTQIA+ community,” said Daniel Cano Restrepo, executive director.

Project Weber/RENEW received $10,000 to support its Transgender Outreach Project, which connects transgender and genderqueer/non-binary individuals with harm reduction, case management and support services. The program has a special focus on those who are at high risk for HIV, engage in sex work or have substance use challenges.

“We will grow our weekly support groups by purchasing supplies such as food, transportation vouchers and group activity materials. In addition, we will support our gender-affirming case management services by assisting clients with name-change application fees and by purchasing gender-affirming supplies and clothing, including binders, bras, wigs and makeup,” said Colleen Daley Ndoye, executive director.

The Providence Public School District (PPSD) received $10,000 to support the launch of its School-based Equity Leadership Team Lead Ambassadors initiative at all 38 district schools. The grant will cover the cost of training two ambassadors from every school on LGBTQ+ identities.

“While our ambassadors will support all students, they will focus on those who have been marginalized due to gender, gender expression or identity, sexual orientation or identity, race, ethnicity, language, national origin or ability. This initiative will grow understanding and model that these student identities are not singular, and that all of our classrooms and school environments must reflect, include and affirm all our students,” said PPSD Superintendent Javier Montañez.

Queer.Archive.Work received $2,500 to support 15 exhibitor stipends and meals for 50 artists at Queer/Trans Zinefest (QTZ) 2023. The target demographic is LGBTQIA+ writers, poets, cartoonists, independent publishers and zine-makers, especially those based in Rhode Island. The event attracts over a thousand attendees annually, according to the organizers.

"Through Queer/Trans Zinefest, we center queer and trans people of color with limited access to print and zine festivals and offer an entry point to the world of independent publishing and printmaking," said Christopher Lee, QTZ organizer.

The Rhode Island Public Health Foundation received $5,000 to support its Open Door Health clinic, which provides primary care, sexual health care, gender-affirming care and behavioral health care to the LGBTQ communities.

"We will use the grant to solicit community input about our new behavioral health services and to provide care in ways that best serve our LGBTQ clients," said Amy Nunn, executive director.

Sojourner House received $8,000 to support its LGBTQ+ Victims of Abuse services, which provide supportive services for LGBTQ+ victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and human trafficking as well as educate staff, community members and other service providers on how to support LGBTQ+ victims.

"Offering these specialized services is crucial. People who are marginalized, such as LGBTQ+ individuals, often have a harder time accessing services due to stigma, discrimination, local of resources and societal bias," said Vanessa Volz, executive director.

Youth Pride Inc. received $10,000 to expand its programs, including the LGBTQIA+ drop-in center, case management, the basic needs pantry and youth leadership development.

"This work responds to the unique needs of these young people. The aim is to create a safe and supportive environment where LGBTQIA+ youth can be themselves and find the resources and support the need to thrive," said Rush Frazier, executive director.

The Steel Yard received $2,500 to support Camp Sparkle, which trains LGBTQ+ youth ages 14 to 18 in the industrial arts such as jewelry- and metal-smithing techniques, welding and large-scale fabrication.

“Our summer camps are celebrated because they support young artists as whole people with ideas and identities of their own. Campers often tell us Camp Sparkle means the world to them because it is a rare opportunity to be surrounded by other queer young people who accept them without a thought,” said Howie Sneider, executive director. "Our incredible education team creates these brave spaces, and thanks to support from the Equity Action Fund and many other donors, we don't turn away any students due to financial need.”

Over the years, the Equity Action Fund has made more than $1.2 million in grants to dozens of organizations working on behalf of Rhode Island’s LGBTQ+ communities. The public can support the fund’s work by donating to it here.

The Rhode Island Foundation is the largest and most comprehensive funder of nonprofit organizations in Rhode Island. Through civic leadership, fundraising and grant-making activities, often in partnership with individuals and organizations, the Foundation is helping improve the lives of all Rhode Islanders.