Apple is helping a Utah-based nonprofit expand in four states, offering a community center for LGBTQ youths and families. The program, called Encircle, launched in 2017 and operates out of houses it remodels to offer services like art and music studios, community classes and service projects. It also offers free and subsidized group and individual therapy sessions.
“All people should feel safe and supported enough to be open about who they are with their community and themselves,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement Thursday. “Encircle is helping to bridge divides and bring people together — sending a powerful message that the greatest thing you can aspire to become is who you truly are.”
Encircle said the money will help its efforts to open eight new homes in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada and its home state of Utah. Apple made its investment alongside Ryan Smith and his wife, Ashley, the owners of the Utah Jazz basketball team. Imagine Dragons lead singer Dan Reynolds and his wife, musician Aja Volkman, also donated Reynolds’ childhood home to the organization. Apple will offer iPads and other products in addition to its $1 million donation.
The move marks Apple’s latest moves with social justice initiatives, which expanded. At the time, Apple said , economic equality and criminal justice reform. Cook said back then it was in order to “challenge the systemic barriers to opportunity and dignity that exist for communities of color, and particularly for the black community.”
Cook’s signaled his interest in charitable giving short after being named CEO in 2011. About a month after he took the job, Cook dipped into Apple’s pile of cash and equivalents, to start employee donation matching programs for. In 2012, Cook told employees Apple had also given $50 million each to Stanford University and Product RED, a products brand of which a portion of proceeds go to help fight AIDS around the world.
Cook, who grew up in Alabama during the 1960s and out as gay since 2014,on LGBTQ issues.
Apple’s $1 million investment in Encircle may seem small in comparison to some of its other efforts, but organization head Stephanie Larsen said its programs — which have shifted online during the pandemic — are as important as ever. “Studies repeatedly have shown that LGBTQ+ youth across the country struggle with depression and suicidality far more than their heterosexual peers, and the pandemic has made that sense of isolation so many feel harder than ever before,” she said in a statement. “This incredible support makes our nationwide expansion possible and will improve countless LGBTQ+ lives — reminding them that they are perfect, just as they are.”