Checking in to share all of the wonderful things you are making possible for our community, during this challenging time. While the ways in which we are providing services look a bit different, the heart and soul of the work remain intact – thank you! Because of you, we have been able to pivot and carry on existing programming, while also identifying and deploying new solutions as needs arise.
• Recently, our team identified a gap in the food supply chain for our community and worked with community partners to fill it immediately. As I write you this letter, staff and volunteers in proper PPE are placing food boxes into the trunks of cars pulling up in a line behind Affirmations. Each day we also place grocery orders that are delivered directly to the front doors of our LGBTQ+ seniors and those facing food insecurity, many for the first time in their lives. Thank you for ensuring no one in our community need go hungry.
• Support and recovery groups are continuing online and GROWING! Due to the implementation of virtual technology, we are now able to serve community members across Michigan and even overseas. This is particularly a significant boost in capacity for our rural communities throughout the state and region.
Mental health tele-therapy sessions continue and are needed now more than ever. • We continue to offer educational and cultural programming, play readings, performances and virtual town halls on everything from budgeting to getting out the vote and avoiding fraud related to COVID-19. • No longer bound by geography for service delivery, we have even expanded our LGBTQ+ cultural competency trainings around the state utilizing virtual technology you helped to make possible.
While the building is closed, we have been doing some significant upgrades. We have been in talks with key community partners to expand our mental health, STI testing, PrEP navigation and outreach as soon as we are able to re-open. We recently launched a new website that looks amazing, allows us much more flexibility and better capability to tell our story, and even includes a virtual storefront to buy Aff apparel (the domain remains the same at GoAffirmations.org). Our new website also includes an AFF Advocacy page where you can view my detailed remarks regarding the recent riots and violence perpetrated against black Americans and black LGBTQ+ people – especially the epidemic of violence against Transgender women of color.
Throughout this historic and unprecedented pandemic, it would be easy for all of us to take a woe is me attitude. And I would be lying if I said there aren’t some nights I lay awake at 3:00 AM worrying about the magnitude of the challenges facing the community and the community center. There is a new report out that suggests more than 1/3 of all LGBTQ+ Centers across the country may close due to the financial ramifications of the virus. When you consider the major revenue sources of most LGBTQ+ centers are grants, individual giving, events, and corporate sponsorships – it is easy to see why most centers are facing very challenging times. We are no exception.
Rather than wallow, we are employing creative ideas and solutions because the community needs us now more than ever, and they need you. In order to serve the community through innovative programming, we must also serve the community by generating the resources to support those programs. That’s why we’re undertaking new initiatives you’ll see rolling out soon:
Our Pride Campaign launches in June and will culminate in a virtual six-hour telethon on June 27th from Noon-6 PM with great interviews, videos and entertainment.
• In late September, I will be participating in the “Ride4Affirmations” biking event across the state from Belle Isle to Saugatuck to help raise funds for Aff. This fall, whether we can meet face-to-face for our Black-tie Bash Masquerade, or we end up having to combine elements of the wine party and Bash for a virtual event, we will still come together and celebrate.
While many supporters are taking a wait and see approach throughout the pandemic, others continue to support our programs and services. As you may know, we started with zero grants a year ago when I arrived and we now have over twenty! While corporate giving has slowed, our new website and virtual events like the telethon and Bash will continue to allow supporters an opportunity to show their support and to be recognized. Will it be enough? With your continued investment, I hope so. Most non-profit experts are suggesting budget cuts of 25% for the 2021 budget cycle and we have already revised our 2020 budget to reflect a slowdown throughout the end of the year. While difficult, it is the financially prudent thing to do.
That does not mean however that the WORK slows down. It does not mean we can’t continue the momentum we have been steadily building over this past year. Moreover, it certainly doesn’t mean we step back or slow down the delivery of services, resources and opportunities for the LGBTQ+ community. It is strong leadership and individuals like you who will most determine the viability of Affirmations at this critical moment.
I recently reflected on one of my many video communications to the community about a friend who said, “I bet you wish you’d stayed in LA right about now.” He meant no ill will, only that the job security of being a Senior Director at the world’s largest LGBTQ+ organization must be looking pretty good and safe right about now. I told him then, and I am telling you all now, the answer to that is no. I am glad I am here at home fighting alongside my team at Aff and for the community I grew up in and friends and family I have known all of my life.
As I have written to you in the past, this is not exactly the first virus the LGBTQ+ community has faced head on together. It will take all the determination and effort this Affirmation’s team and our LGBTQ+ community has to get us through this unprecedented and difficult moment in history. And we will do just that.
P.S. For those donating $1,000 or more during the Pride Campaign and Pride Telethon, you will receive a complimentary bottle of Green Spot Irish Whiskey (courtesy of Aff supporter Colt Stacer) and an invitation to a post telethon virtual Irish Jig, complete with live entertainment, prizes and a whole lot of fun! Remember too, for those able to contribute, the CARES Act now allows taxpayers, even if you don’t itemize, to deduct up to $300 in charitable giving in 2020. That translates to a monthly gift of $43.00 between now and December. If 300 partners invest just $300 in the Center between now and year end, that is an extra $90k in revenue we can invest right back into supporting the LGBTQ+ community.