Celebrating PRIDE Month: Spotlight on Maine Justice Foundation’s LGBTQ+ Fund Grantees

13 June 2024 , Posted in: Uncategorized

As we celebrate Pride Month, the Maine Justice Foundation is thrilled to highlight the five outstanding Maine organizations that are implementing programs supported by grant funding from the LGBTQ+ Fund. These grants are not just financial support; they are catalysts for change, promoting justice and equity for the LGBTQ+ community across Maine. Six months into the grants being awarded, these organizations had made exceptional progress with their programs, and we are excited to see the final outcomes later this summer.

Pride Month is a time for celebration, reflection, and advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. Across Maine, communities come together to honor the progress made towards equality, acknowledge the challenges that remain, and promote a future where all individuals can live authentically and without fear of discrimination.

Our Grantees and Their Projects

In 2023, the Foundation issued five grants of $10,000 each, marking the largest and most comprehensive grant round in the history of the LGBTQ+ Fund. These grants have supported a diverse range of projects aimed at addressing the needs of the LGBTQ+ community in Maine. Here are updates from our grantees.

AYCC third annual Queer Youth Symposium in partnership with OUT Maine. Photo Credit: Alfond Youth and Community Center

Alfond Youth & Community Center

The Alfond Youth & Community Center was awarded a grant to support their Folks Organizing Reform for Queer Spaces (FORQS) program which includes a social club for LGBTQ+ teens, professional development to its members, and the Maine Queer Convention. Recently, on June 1st, AYCC, in collaboration with OUT Maine, hosted its third annual Queer Youth Symposium. The event drew participation from ten youth and community-based organizations in attendance which provided free educational materials and presentations to more than fifty participants. H. Walker, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer for the national Boys & Girls Clubs of America organization provided the keynote address for the event. Following the event, a session presenter shared “I grew up in this area and left as soon as I could because I felt like there was no space for people like me. If this event had existed when I was a child, I would have felt more welcomed and seen within the community, and maybe I would not have been so anxious to run away.” A youth participant shared, “Celebrating Pride is important to me because my parents weren’t allowed to.” The grant funding from the Maine Justice Foundation has also empowered the AYCC and Out Maine to deliver LGBTQ+ programming in the community. The organization has conducted multiple training sessions promoting inclusion and acceptance for LGBTQ+ youth. They have also given ten LGBTQ+ youth the opportunity to attend OUT Maine’s Rainbow Ball event, a weekend retreat for LGBTQ+ youth and community members.

NASW (National Association of Social Workers) Maine

NASW Maine was awarded a grant to create a training certificate program to be offered for free to behavioral health clinicians and students across Maine to develop skills in working collaboratively with families, schools, primary care, and ancillary providers to improve wrap around care for LGBTQ+ individuals. Over the past six months, NASW Maine has completed training for the first cohort and is currently wrapping up the second cohort, with the third set to commence in July. By the end of September, NASW Maine anticipates having trained close to 750 behavioral health providers across Maine and northern New England through this comprehensive 9-hour certificate course. Participants have responded enthusiastically, and the feedback highlights its invaluable nature. Some participant responses the organization has received says, “This training was invaluable and should be required for every social worker for licensure.” “This was by far the most comprehensive and practical training I have taken related to working with LGBTQ clients.” “This training was more comprehensive than any other LGBTQIA+ training I have been a part of. It moved at a good pace and included so much content. I really appreciated and benefited of the style/language modeled/and inclusivity explained in each module in a more secondary way…meaning…hearing. Hearing Christopher and Brandy speak of terms-techniques-processes in of itself was very eye opening to how gendered my language can be and how much more I need to be aware and challenge myself to be more inclusive w/thoughts and language. This was so great, thank you!”

Maine TransNet

Maine TransNet was awarded a grant to expand their work providing cultural competency training to medical and mental health care providers working within the LGBTQ+ community. Since receiving the grant from the Maine Justice Foundation, Maine TransNet has trained approximately twenty-five healthcare providers in issues related to trans healthcare and trans cultural competency. In addition to these trainings, Maine TransNet has extended its impact by conducting cultural competency training sessions on transgender issues for over 150 individuals across Maine at various venues such as libraries and churches since the fall. These efforts underscore Maine TransNet’s commitment to fostering understanding and inclusivity in healthcare settings and beyond.

University of Maine School of Law's Day of Service. Photo Credit: Equality Maine

Equality Maine Foundation

The Equality Maine Foundation was awarded a grant to conduct a feasibility study for an Equality Maine LGBTQ+ legal aid clinic. The Equality Maine Foundation received meaningful support during the University of Maine School of Law’s “Day of Service” when law students volunteered for the LGBTQ+ legal aid clinic feasibility study. In partnership with Maine Law, law students went to Equality Maine in October of 2023 to spend an afternoon learning about this project and brainstorming about the various considerations for the survey. Students were encouraged to think about legal issues from various perspectives and imagine themselves in others’ shoes, and to think about intersectionality with a desire to meet people where they are. Equality Maine has also had meetings with several organizations including Pine Tree Legal Assistance, Immigrant Legal Advocacy Project, Preble Street, Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition, and GLAD Legal Advocates and Defenders, to start conversations about who they serve and what challenges they are facing. The survey design was completed in preparation to launch this past March.

OUT Maine

OUT Maine was awarded a grant to support efforts in building inclusive schools through an integrated school climate program to implement best practices of inclusive school environments. Four schools, collectively supporting 2,200 youth, enthusiastically joined the School Climate Change Cohort Initiative to foster inclusive educational environments. The initiative began with a school climate assessment to gather data on current practices, guiding tailored training to address identified gaps. The schools devised goals and timelines, reviewed by the OUT Maine team, who provided feedback and recommended strategies. Ongoing skills development and goal updates were facilitated through monthly cohort calls and collaborations with the Maine Association for New Americans addressed students with intersectional identities and meetings emphasized strategies for student voice inclusion. This comprehensive approach signifies a transformative journey toward inclusive school practices. Since January, the school cohort has held six technical assistance calls, focusing on acquiring resources, skills, and inter-school collaboration. OUT Maine conducted three training sessions, including full staff and bias interruption training, with schools reporting high satisfaction and enhanced inclusivity resulting from the cohorts’ initiatives. Some meaningful quotes from the pilot program evaluation include: “This training and support has helped Westbrook High School become a safer, more supportive place for our LGBTQ students. This makes our school have a stronger and healthier culture. Thanks to Out Maine for guidance, training, and resources. As a school, we would not have had the time to create the training and resources, so you all provided the lift and expertise needed to engage staff and students effectively. Thank you!” “As a board member I was able to see our school community and others around us through a new lens. How these issues are impacting our students and our staff; the weight that decisions being made, hold for our communities.”

About the Maine Justice Foundation and the LGBTQ+ Fund

The LGBTQ+ Fund of the Maine Justice Foundation was formed by seven founding donors in 2016. The first grants were awarded in 2019. The Fund’s Advisory Committee issued a request for proposals and reviewed applications. The current Advisory Committee members are Judith A. Fletcher Woodbury, retired Partner, Pierce Atwood; Dana Eidsness, Vice President International & U.S. Relations, Wave Aerospace; Jessica Feinberg, Professor of Law, University of Maine School of Law; Joanne Lewis, Assistant District Attorney, Bangor; and Jessica Mizzi, Coffin Family Law Fellow, Pine Tree Legal Assistance. For a full description of the LGBTQ+ Fund and the advisory committee, please CLICK HERE.

The Maine Justice Foundation, founded in 1983 as the Maine Bar Foundation, is the state’s leading funder of civil legal aid and is committed to ensuring access to justice for all people in Maine. As we celebrate Pride Month, we are reminded of the importance of equity and justice for all. The Maine Justice Foundation is proud to support these outstanding organizations and looks forward to the positive impact they will continue to have on Maine’s LGBTQ+ community.