In August, 2014, Donor Advisors, Shelley Padnos and Carol Sarosik, created Our LGBT Fund , a Field of Interest Fund at the Community Foundation. It was created with a matching gift of $100,000. Through this Fund, Shelley and Carol had a goal: to fund programs that support vulnerable and homeless LGBT youth in West Michigan. The $100,000 was exceeded in a matter of months. “We’re beyond pleased that that campaign was successful so quickly. It shows me that not only was the time right to ask the LGBT community and its allies to help, but that the issue of homeless and marginalized gay youth matters to people here,” Shelley said. Gifts to Our LGBT Fund were made by 162 individuals, couples and organizations in West Michigan and as of spring 2015 stands at more than $350,000.
The issue of youth homelessness is heartbreaking. Nationally more than 500,000 young people live on the streets are more vulnerable to harm physical harm, sexual abuse and exploitation than adults. For LGBT homelessness is even more of a harsh reality—often families are unaccepting when youth come out and they are forced out of the home or run away due to rejection, conflict or abuse. . “We’re anxious to see how we can change things here in West Michigan when it comes to how young LGBT people are regarded,” Carol said. “We know there are organizations that want to help and now there will be resources to make that happen.”