By Neal Broverman
Originally published on Advocate.com September 23 2011 10:30 AM ET
You know you’re doing something right when Anna Paquin and Joel McHale show up to your birthday party — the Point Foundation, which grants college scholarships to deserving LGBT students, turns 10 years old this year, and is celebrating with a star-studded party and fund-raiser in Hollywood.
The Point Honors Los Angeles event is being held at Jim Henson Studios Saturday night, with McHale (of Talk Soup and Community) emceeing and stars like Paquin, the bisexual star of True Blood, and her husband-plus-costar, Stephen Moyer, in attendance. Travis Wall, the out choreographer who makes So You Think You Can Dance so fun, is being honored as well as the organization’s three founders and the latest batch of overachievers known as Point Scholars.
Point Foundation executive director and CEO Jorge Valencia tells us that in 2001 the philanthropy was begun by Bruce Lindstrom, Carl Strickland, and John Pence. Lindstrom’s personal story is like that of many Point Scholars; when he came out to his family in Orange County, Calif., they cut him off emotionally and financially.
“For 15 years, he had no communication with his family — they’d send back Christmas gifts,” Valencia says of Lindstrom. “They said they were turning their back on evil.”
In spite of that, Lindstrom succeeded in life — making a small fortune by selling his retail business to Costco. Lindstrom, with his friends Strickland and Pence, wanted to give back, and they decided a scholarship fund for LGBT students of merit was a novel idea.
In its decade of existence, the Los Angeles-based Point Foundation has given over $12 million in college scholarships, allowing abandoned and deserving LGBT young people to work toward a better life. The 194 Point alumni include doctors, professors, and filmmakers.
“One of our board members recently was in New York City and he fell ill and went to the ER,” Valencia says. “A young doctor strode by and he noticed it was John Downey, from Point Foundation’s second class of scholars. To me, that story shows what a good investment Point is in the future.”
The organization also offers leadership training and mentoring — distinguished LGBT leaders like Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, political strategist David Mixner, and movie producer Randy Barbato have shared their secrets to success with Point scholars. Valencia says the organization, in its next decade of existence, will work to find more opportunities for both their scholars and alumni to interact and get involved with role models like the ones just described. And as more LGBT kids come out younger, and risk being cut off from familial financial assistance, there will be a need for more Point monetary support from older members of the gay community.
“There are a lot of deserving scholars,” Valencia says. “Most recently, we had 2,000 applicants for 34 scholar slots.”
Click here for more information on the Point Foundation and here for Saturday’s Point Honors. Click here to meet 2011's Point Scholars.