On Wednesday the Log Cabin Democrat reported on a GoFundMe account that had been created to help raise money for Conway's Pink House which has served as a safe haven for the LGBTQ+ community since purchased in 1986.
Same-sex couple John Schenck and Robert Loyd — the duo, married in Canada in 2004, have since died, Loyd in 2015 and Schenck a year later — purchased the 1917-built, 3,053 square-foot house for $1,000 in 1986. The structure sits at the corner of Robinson and Center streets, is painted pink — can't be missed — and had a sign out front that read, "Teach Tolerance," which has since been changed to, "Teach Love."
Since the couple's passing, the house has been kept by Schenck's son, Justin Rawls.
The Log Cabin Democrat spoke with Rawls through text and email on Wednesday and Thursday.
"The possibility has always been there to sell but I kept taking out loan after loan and charged credit card after credit card," Rawls said. "It[']s too the point were [it] is sink or swim. My dads spent much of their [lives] trying to better others. Mostly young queer people. Selling isn[']t an option but if it comes to that it wouldn't be a [decision] that was made on purpose. We all want the house to stay. We all want their legacy to live on."
In December 2016, Rawls's plan was to rededicate the Pink House as a museum with "items from their life, their fight for equal rights, and many other events that have made their legacy."
Currently, he said, there are three people, including Rawls, and four dogs living in the house, but thousands have walked through the doors over the years.
"My dads put on many parties for the community," he said. "Not including people from pride that get to come in and see the house. I mean for our big Halloween party last year we had over 100 people in and out throughout the nights."
Schenck — a former worker of gay bar and recreational tavern the Stonewall Inn during the 1969 riots that launched the gay rights movement – and Loyd, a Vietnam War veteran, spearheaded the LGBTQ+ cause in Conway for many years.
The two were politically and socially active in the 90s toward the remarks about same-sex rights mentioned in the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), organized the community's first Conway Pride Parade in 2003 and were targets of harassment on various occasions including the times the Pink House was shot at, the death threats they received that warranted FBI protection, the exchanges with the Westboro Baptist Church and encounters with the law many times.
"Pride has been going on for 16 years now and we grow more and more each year," Rawls said. "This house is a beacon for the wounded and lost.
"Saving the [Pink House] is just as much our history as stonewall. John and [B]obby endure[d] [a lot ...] death threats, vandalism, physical abuse[.] They endured all that so being gay in Arkansas wasn't nearly as bad when they first painted the house. People drive by all the time and stop and ask me about the house or they tell me how much it means to know that we aren[']t invisible here."
The GoFundMe account — which Rawls said was set up by some "lovely drag queens" — was initially established on Tuesday shortly after midnight.
Nicki Hunter is listed as the organizer.
“Hi all,” Hunter posted to Facebook on Monday. “I recently stumbled upon the upsetting news that The Pink House is at risk of being sold. It becomes an actual historical landmark next year! As this place has a special place in our hearts and is a staple of the LGBTQ+ community in Arkansas, I felt the need to act. Give a little if you can.”
In total, $75,000 is being raised for the home. By 6 p.m. July 4, $280 had been given toward the cause.
″[Seventy-five thousand] is asking a lot, but I believe it is worth it for this cause,” the GoFundMe page states.
According to the page, the asked amount is what it will take to cover the funds of the house until it becomes a historical landmark in 2020, when other financial options become available.
The LCD asked Rawls where the $75,000 estimation came from and how long they had to raise, but did not get a reply by press time Thursday.