The Gambrell Family Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina, has awarded $1.5 million to Time Out Youth in support of a homeless shelter for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth, the Charlotte Observer reports.
The grant to the organization will support a $3.4 million initiative to purchase and renovate an existing office building as a hub for LGBTQ youth, including a ten-bed shelter. The oldest and largest LGBTQ youth organization in the Carolinas, with an annual budget of $560,000, Time Out Youth plans to provide counseling and job support at the shelter. The organization, which must vacate its current building this spring, has begun renovations on a new facility that also has land for construction of the shelter.
"We hear from youth who have suffered physical, emotional, and verbal abuse; it is common to hear their lives are 'against God' and [that they have been] kicked out of their home alone, without anything," said Time Out Youth executive director Rodney Tucker. "This shelter will give our youth a place to call home."
Sally Gambrell, vice president of the foundation, told the Observer that the grant was meant to be a public show of support for LGBTQ youth and a stand against North Carolina's anti-gay law, House Bill 2, which prevents municipalities from extending civil rights protections to LGBTQ individuals. "I think HB2 is a knee-jerk reaction based on fear of what we don't understand....But it's not my position to judge others (opposed to LGBTQ rights)," said Gambrell, for whom the issue became personal when her teenage son came out as gay. "I just want to invest in young people so they can reach their potential and contribute to society. I'm inviting people to join me."
Michael Marsicano, president of the Foundation for the Carolinas, where an investment fund has been established for Time Out Youth, told the Observer that the gift from Sarah Belk Gambrell, the 98-year-old president of the foundation, brings the prestige of the Belk family — among the state's most influential philanthropists — to the cause of LGBTQ rights.
"Sarah Belk Gambrell has always been a woman ahead of her time and of her time," said Marsicano. "She has led the way for women in business and in philanthropy. Now she steps forward to help young people who often have no safe and nurturing place to turn....Her voice has such credibility, donors will follow where they might not otherwise have gone. We need bold leadership in our community, and this is another outstanding example of the Belk family taking on that role."