Affirmations LGBTQ+ Community Center was incorporated in 1988 with a vision to become a “front door” to needed services for LGBTQ+ citizens in Michigan and the families/friends of LGBTQ+ community members. In 1989, the group elected its first Board of Directors and established a presence in an abandoned apartment building. The organization quickly expanded to provide meeting space and a helpline office along with a small office alcove.
In 1991, the Board of Directors appointed its first Executive Director, Jan Stevenson and in 1992 added a Volunteer Coordinator and Office Assistant. The toll-free helpline service was now in operation five days a week to be a source of support and resources to those in need. Support groups for women, men and those in recovery were established and meeting regularly at the Center, along with providing space for meetings of other LGBTQ+ organizations.
May of 1992 was marked with both sad and inspiring events. Community members Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett were tragically murdered by their neighbor. However, at the end of that same month, Affirmations held its first-ever LGBTQ+ Youth Prom. In September of 1992, Affirmations established the Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery in honor of the lives of Susan and Christine.
In 1993, the Executive Director and Program Director became full-time staff members. 1994 marked a period of tremendous growth as Affirmations now occupied nine units within its building to accommodate its successful and growing Youth Program as well as other services.
Between 1996-1999, Affirmations saw staff and leadership changes, and for a period of time was solely run by the Board and Volunteers. In 2000, the Board of Directors hired Leslie Thompson to serve as Executive Director. During the next several years, existing programs were revitalized and two annual special events were created. The organization established a “Center Partner” monthly giving program in 2001, which continues to this day. This funding ensures the availability of Center programs and services as well as supporting bottom-line operational expenses.
In 2004, Affirmations kicked off its “Open the Doors Capital and Endowment Campaign” with the vision of an expanded Affirmations. The campaign was finished in 2005 and construction of a three level, sixteen thousand square foot facility began. In 2007, Affirmations held the grand opening of the new “Alan Gilmour and Eric Jirgens’ Community Center” in downtown Ferndale – across the street from where the group originally provided programs and services.
Through the generous support of individuals, businesses and foundations for more than 32 years, Affirmations has grown to be a valued, critical resource to the LGBTQ+ community and the community at large. It serves as a true focal point for needed support services, social gatherings, public meetings, and LGBTQ+ advocacy activities.