A new $1 million fund backed by three members of the Walton family will provide money to nonprofits working to improve the quality of life for LGBTQ Arkansans.
The Arkansas Community Foundation will oversee the fund, which is supported by the Alice L. Walton Foundation and Olivia and Tom Walton through the Walton Family Foundation. Both nonprofits are led by the family of Walmart Inc.'s late founder, Sam Walton.
Through the fund, Arkansas-based organizations that offer legal, health, education and advocacy services, along with other "high-demand needs," will be eligible for the grants of $25,000 or more.
National entities with a local presence, established in-state partnerships and community relationships can also qualify, according to a news release from the Walton Family Foundation.
The foundation said the fund will have a selection committee with representatives from the LGBTQ community.
"Organizations from across our state are leading the efforts needed to build a sense of community," Alice Walton, the daughter of Sam Walton and founder of Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, said in a news release. "Let's support this important work that ensures everyone in Arkansas can live their lives with equity and dignity."
The creation of the fund comes on the heels of an Arkansas legislative session that added new restrictions for transgender people, which has resulted in threats of boycotts and legal challenges. Arkansas was one of five states to enact transgender-specific laws this year, and was the first to ban certain health care for transgender minors.
Walmart heirs and the Walton Family Foundation were among the people and organizations who spoke against the legislation, calling it harmful and a "wrong message to those willing to invest in or visit our state."
"Our state is in a moment of reflection where each of us must send a message of acceptance to the LGBTQ community that says 'you belong here,'" Olivia and Tom Walton said in a news release Thursday. "It is also a time for action by recognizing LGBTQ Arkansans face growing challenges that need community-driven solutions."
Tom Walton is one of Sam Walton's grandsons and the managing principal of RopeSwing Hospitality Group of Bentonville, a "boutique hospitality company" focused on "redeveloping downtowns with iconic restaurants, entertainment venues, art houses, and private clubs." The company provides management, design consulting and event production.
Heather Larkin, president of Arkansas Community Foundation, said fund will allow LGBTQ-serving nonprofits "to expand their impact on communities and help Arkansans pull together to build a more welcoming and supportive environment for us all."
Adrienne Collins of Central Arkansas Pride said there are many organizations "eager to stand up for a more inclusive, accepting environment for all who live in and visit our state."
According to its Facebook page, the group aims to "raise awareness of diversity in the community" and "recognize the positive contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Arkansas."
"We are committed to showing up every day to ensure Arkansas' LGBTQ community has the support needed to thrive," she said.