Portland Rescue Mission rejects invitation to co-sponsor coat drive at queer event

Now in it’s 4th year, local drag icon and former Sissyboy Fannie Mae (Jefferey) Darling is putting on a holiday themed performance called Queer Quistmas later this month. This year she decided to add a philanthropic element with a food and coat drive for the homeless. But when she contacted the Portland Rescue Mission, a group that provides food, shelter, recovery and other vital services to homeless men, women and children in the Portland, Oregon and southwest Washington area, she was told they didn’t want her help. Darling transcribed the message for the Mercury below:

Hi Jeffrey. This is Brian Merrell with Portland Mission Rescue Mission. We spoke yesterday, um, about, um, connecting for the, um…queer Christmas event, um, and I just wanted to get back to you and, um, let you know that um, I have ran that up the ladder here and unfortunately, I think we are going to need to respectively decline, um. Let me preface this by saying that we don’t, do not, discriminate services to anyone, either outreach services or recovery services, meals or anything. But we are a faith-based organization and there was some concern with how it might come across to some of our donors. That, so, um, with that we are going to have to respectively decline, although I greatly appreciate what you want to do for us.

Darling expressed great displeasure saying, “It was a huge slap in the face. I know a lot of really amazing people who could have helped to donate to them. … Do not donate to the Portland Rescue Mission if you are queer. This is a queer city. Even the straight people are queer, because we’re all weird. … I know it’s a Christian organization, but haven’t we gotten past that?” ”

“I have 15 coats and sweaters i can donate, and I know I’m not alone,” he continues . “There are gay homeless people and they need a safe place, too…”

Although local United Church of Christ Minister Rev. Chuck Currie has gotten the Mission to agree to call Basic Rights Oregon to set up a meeting to better understand the impact of its rejection of the event and  Brian Merrell, PRM’s donation drive and communications coordinator has said this about the situation,“I think there’s just been somewhat of a miscommunication. We simply can’t put our logo out on everything. A logo on a barrel is one thing for collecting things, but there’s another level that takes a little bit more evaluation, which are the ones we align with on a press level and become partners.”

When asked whether or not that decision had to with PRM being a faith-based organization, Merrell said, “We take a number of different aspects into play when we’re making these decisions, but for the most part [our being a faith-based organization] does not [pose a factor].” Merrell then added that “there are messages out there from me stating that there is a minor reason there.”

But to Darling the damage has already been done and Darling has already changed the beneficiary of Queer Quistmas. Tod’s Corner and Esther’s Pantry, both programs serving low-income people living with HIV/AIDS through Our House of Portland will now benefit from the event.

Even local TV news stations have aired spots, including this one from KATU:

1 comment to Portland Rescue Mission rejects invitation to co-sponsor coat drive at queer event

  • To clarify Portland Rescue Mission’s decision to not sponsor the Queer Quistmas event coming up in a few weeks:

    Please note that this was a sponsorship decision, not a decision to decline the much-needed and useful contribution of blankets and winter outerwear. We were willing to accept the donations, but the organizer has chosen to direct the gifts elsewhere. Fortunately, they will still benefit the homeless people of the Portland community who we serve every day at Portland Rescue Mission.

    Our decision to decline the sponsorship was primarily based on the urgency of a decision (the event is Dec. 20) and our inability to provide all the benefits that the organizer/event would require. Unfortunately, the organizer took this to the media and it understandably took on a life of its own.

    We regret the confusion that this issue has created in our local community and the greater community of LGBT concerns.