A crowdfunding campaign launched by the LGBT Resource Center at the University of California, Riverside, has so far raised $12,800 amid the coronavirus pandemic. The funding will directly assist LGBTQIA+ students at UCR who have experienced challenges due to COVID-19.
LGBT Resource Center Assistant Director Toi Thibodeaux announced the campaign in late April in response to an influx of inquiries from community members asking how they might support LGBTQIA+ students at UCR, Thibodeaux said.
Contributions directly benefit LGBTQIA+ students at UCR via the resource center’s Student Assistance Fund, ensuring those who have been affected by COVID-19 can continue to access, among other necessities, critical medications and mental health services, housing, and other basic needs.
Since the campaign’s April launch, donations have come in quickly and steadily. Early on, Thibodeaux secured a generous $8,000 grant from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation through its COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund for people experiencing difficulties due to the pandemic.
Thibodeaux was motivated to act fast after the campus began shutting down and moving to remote operations when possible. As early as Friday, March 13, Riverside County authorities had directed all schools and colleges to close by the following Monday to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
In response, UCR began to encourage all students who could leave campus to do so. Within a few weeks of the campus closure, 92% of residence hall contracts and 55% of campus apartment leases had been canceled.
“I just knew that with so much of our student population leaving the university and the area, many of our LGBTQIA+ students would have to go back to unsafe environments for their mental health,” Thibodeaux said.
“In launching the crowdfunding campaign, I really wanted to make sure we could help those students get back to safe environments for their mental health where they could feel comfortable being their authentic selves.”
Nearly four months later, the campus continues to remain closed, with only the most critical departments still in operation, including services related to housing, dining, student health, and counseling, as well as the campus food and hygiene pantry, R’Pantry.
To remain connected with students remotely, the LGBT Resource Center has hosted virtual check-in sessions for students to meet with staffers and transitioned many of its community activities and programming online.
In addition to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation grant, the crowdfunding campaign has brought in about 50 donations from individuals, including UCR faculty members, staffers, alumni, parents, and even one undergraduate student. LGBT Resource Center Director Nancy Jean Tubbs and Program Coordinator Megan Rush joined Thibodeaux to contact as many potential donors as possible.
While the majority of the contributions were from staff and alumni in California, gifts also came from donors in Alaska, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, New York, and Oregon, demonstrating the success of the LGBT Resource Center’s outreach.
“I’m ecstatic that so many UCR campus staff and faculty members have chosen to give to us through payroll deductions, which are deducted from their pay before taxes,” Thibodeaux added. “It’s been so gratifying to see those members of our community give back to our students specifically.”
To give to the LGBT Resource Center’s Student Assistance Fund and support LGBTQIA+ students at UCR who are experiencing challenges due to COVID-19, click here.