The only youth center in Josephine County rejected a $3,000 donation from the proceeds of a Portland Gay Men's Chorus concert, reports by the Daily Courier.
The rejection came before a Grants Pass City Council decision about whether or not to give the center additional funding.
The faith-based youth center Hearts With A Mission already receives $50,000 a year in city funding, but after turning down the donation, it requested City Council fund an additional $26,000 for repairs to the shelter.
At the meeting where City Council was scheduled to make a decision on whether or not the center would receive more funding, a member of the public raised concerns about giving more money to an organization that had turned down a donation.
The Portland Gay Men's Chorus wasn't directly donating to Hearts With A Mission. The money came from a sold-out charity concert by the chorus held at Newman's United Methodist Church in Grant's Pass in March. The church was donating the money, which Hearts With A Mission rejected.
In a 6-2 vote, the council voted to grant the youth center additional funding anyway.
"I was surprised," City Council member Tyler Flaming tells WW. Flaming voted against the additional funding. "I consider myself a very rational individual. I'm not promoting any sort of lifestyle. The core issue for me was that they're asking the city taxpayers for money, yet turning down a viable donation."
After that meeting, Hearts With A Mission board member and Grants Pass School District Superintendent Kirk Kolb wrote a letter to the City Council, explaining that the decision had to do with the "challenges that come with living in a considerably conservative climate."
"He basically said nothing. It was a page full of words that basically said nothing," Flaming says.
Hearts With A Mission executive director Kevin Lamson told the Daily Courier that: "By branding something with our logo, we are essentially endorsing it…it's a shame that that factors into how somebody else perceives our organization."
He went on to tell the paper that because many of the kids the organization works with might be struggling with their own sexual identity, they could be less likely to come to the center if they see public outcry over accepting the donation.
Lamson told the Daily Courier:
“Many of the kids that we’ve worked with have been abused or they are struggling with their own sexual identity…If they see in the paper or hear their parents saying that they don’t support our organization anymore, that’s going to have an effect on them and whether they come to us.”
Lamson did not immediately respond to WW's request for comment.
"None of their concerns made any sense to me, to be quite honest," Flaming says. "If you're somebody that needs help from this organization and you have the ability to go to this shelter, I don't think the first thing you're doing is asking for the donor list. It makes absolutely no sense to me at all."
Flaming says he doesn't know what the real reason would be for rejecting the funding, but he has an idea.
"All I do know is they're a faith-based organization. From that, I draw an unsubstantiated conclusion that that alliterative lifestyle doesn't fall in line with their values," he says.
Flaming says he doesn't have a problem with the city funding the organization, especially because the center is providing a service to the city, now that the Grants Pass juvenile detention center is closed.
"But when you're not accepting money because it was raised from a concert of gay men that's just too much for me," Flaming says. "It's too crazy. Crazy town."
The Gay Men's Chorus says they say they don't have any relationship with the youth organization itself, as they did the benefit for the church.