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About Affirmations
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Centrally located in vibrant downtown Ferndale, just a mile from the Detroit border, Affirmations is the center for LGBT activities throughout the community. In keeping with its vision, Affirmations is the hub of the community, celebrating wellness, personal growth and development, centered in a state-of-the-art, multi-use facility that is financially secure.

Because of its ability to change and meet community needs, Affirmations, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has become not only the largest LGBT organization in Michigan, but also one of the ten largest in the United States.

Programs include Advocacy, Culture and Society, Growth and Development, Health and Wellness, Recreation and Partnerships. Resources at the center include our toll-free Helpline, the Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery, Game Room, General Motors Foundation Media Center and Bayard Rustin Library, Mental Health Services, Internship Program and our Volunteer and Leadership Development program.

Vision
Affirmations is an evolving community center where all who gather are embraced and are free to be their authentic selves.



Philosophy

Affirmations Community Center was founded on the philosophy that "gay is good, you are not alone." This philosophy has expanded to include bisexual and transgender individuals, in addition to lesbians and gay men. Affirmations strives to create an atmosphere of safety and acceptance for all people. Our focus is on helping lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals find and develop community where they value and respect themselves and others. Affirmations philosophy promotes the principle of empowerment and educates volunteers to utilize strength-based and holistic approaches. Through training in the basic operations of the center, listening, communication, empathy, problem solving, facilitation, and other appropriate skills, interested and dedicated individuals can successfully volunteer at Affirmations.

Empowerment is the experience of feeling our power to effect change and create the life we were meant to live. We recognize one's ability to make one's own decisions and to live a rewarding and fulfilling life in ways that do not harm others. Affirmations programs and services allow people to discover their power and utilize it to become alive and whole in their lives.

Holistic approaches to programs and services at Affirmations help to counter the impact of heterosexism and homophobia. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people still live in a world that does not always recognize and honor our identities. We believe that people are more than any one aspect of their identity such as sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, class, education, religion, physical ability or other personal characteristics. Affirmations programs and services are designed in a way that allows for the opportunity to integrate one's sexual orientation and gender identity into all aspects of one's life.

Strength-based approaches recognize that as a community, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have the ability to meet their human needs. We work to counter the homophobic and heterosexist messages that indicate LGBT people are somehow deficient. Affirmations programs and services help to reinforce the wholeness, strength, and resiliency of LGBT people.Affirmations staff and volunteers are dedicated to enacting this philosophy.

Holistic approaches to programs and services at Affirmations help to counter the impact of heterosexism and homophobia. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people still live in a world that does not always recognize and honor our identities. We believe that people are more than any one aspect of their identity such as sexual orientation, gender identity, sex, race, class, education, religion, physical ability or other personal characteristics. Affirmations programs and services are designed in a way that allows for the opportunity to integrate one's sexual orientation and gender identity into all aspects of one's life.

Strength-based approaches recognize that as a community, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have the ability to meet their human needs. We work to counter the homophobic and heterosexist messages that indicate LGBT people are somehow deficient. Affirmations programs and services help to reinforce the wholeness, strength, and resiliency of LGBT people.Affirmations staff and volunteers are dedicated to enacting this philosophy.

To this end, we strive to be a neutral space where a safe dialogue can occur about issues that are of importance to the LGBTQA community. Inevitably, as a diverse and inclusive community, there will be times when views and perspectives differ. It is Affirmations' unique and special mission to be a gathering place where these conversations can happen openly and respectfully. We as an organization are committed to providing this open space and will continue to do our best to hold true to our mission and be a place where we can evolve, learn and grow.

History

1989. Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center was formed to serve the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and questioning individuals in Southeastern Michigan. During our first two years of operation, the organization was run entirely by volunteers. Originally known simply as the "switchboard," the first service offered to the LGBT community was a toll-free Helpline for information and referral, 1-800-398-GAYS (4297), which still exists today.

1991. Affirmations appointed its first Executive Director, Jan Stevenson. Under her leadership, group offerings expanded to include bisexual women's rap group, coming out groups, men's rap, silver foxxes, young men's group, youth group and many more. It also became the home for 12-step groups specifically designed for those who were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

1992. The Pittmann-Puckett Art Gallery was opened and established in the name of Susan Pittmann and Christine Puckett, two co-founders of Affirmations who were murdered by their neighbor in an apparent hate crime. The first-ever LGBT youth prom was also held this year at Backstreet.

1994. The Youth Services Program experienced tremendous growth and was able to meet community needs, due in large part to the estate of the late Carl Rippenberger, who left a $150,000 donation to Affirmations. By the end of 1995, youth services accounted for 50% of Affirmations' staff and 35% of the center's usable space.1995. Affirmations' first Executive Director, Jan Stevenson, resigned in

1995 to become the publisher of Michigan's statewide LGBT newspaper, Between The Lines. Julie Enzer became Affirmations' second Executive Director and served for the next two years.

2000. Leslie Thompson became Affirmations' Executive Director, and was charged with revitalizing the organization.

2001. The Board of Directors decided to move forward with a feasibility study to determine the capacity of the local community to support the building of a new home for Affirmations.

2002. The Health Services Program was launched, providing information and resources such as weight reduction and smoking cessation classes, to target the health disparities faced by LGBT people.

2003. After a positive outcome on the feasibility study, the Board of Directors voted to move forward with plans to build a new community center. Launched on Valentine's Day, Affirmations created a Domestic Partnership Registry. Later, in collaboration with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM), Affirmations' Domestic Partnership Registry was used to offer healthcare benefits to partners of employees with this insurance plan. Later that year, the award-winning group Coming Out Over Coffee developed and quickly gained a successful reputation.

2006. The Capital Campaign fundraising goal of $5.3 million was successfully met with the help of landmark contributions from all of the "Big 3" automotive companies. Affirmations launched two new programs: Civic Engagement and Social & Recreation.

2007. Affirmations moved into its new, 17,000-square-foot building, reopening for business on April 9th. The new building design included environmentally friendly features, cyber cafe with 15 public-access computers and free wireless internet, a beautiful two-story art gallery, an outdoor rooftop sky deck and library & media center.

2008-2009
2009 marked the beginning of a two-year downward financial spiral.  Though spirits were high upon moving into the building, things took a turn for the worse six months after the new building opened as and the economy in Southeast Michigan began to fail. That fall, three full time and 15 part time employees were laid off and management staff took up to 20% in graduated pay cuts.  The center reduced hours of operation, the youth program was temporarily shut down, and management positions were consolidated to meet the budget shortfall. Enormous stress was placed on existing staff as they worked hard to maintain a similar level of service under enormous financial and resource constraints.

Amidst the financial strife, Affirmations was able to expand counseling services by accepting Master’s level students from area universities and introduced a sliding scale rate to clients in need. Affirmations also persevered on racial diversity. In May 2008, the Multicultural Advisory Committee (MAC) was established to examine existing systems and create a set of best practices for expanding racial diversity on the board, staff and in programming. Coordinated for its duration by Chief Administrative Officer Kathleen LaTosch, the MAC brought together a diverse group of community members to make careful and deliberate recommendations to Affirmations’ board of directors for expanding racial and ethnic diversity and inclusion at the center.

2010
In August of 2010, Leslie Ann Thompson, CEO of Affirmations for nearly eleven years, announced her resignation. She was the longest serving Executive Director/CEO in the Center’s history. Interim Executive Directors Kathleen LaTosch and Kevin Howley were identified to bridge the leadership gap while a nationwide search was conducted. With the national economy worsening and Michigan ranking as one of two states hardest hit in the country, Affirmations continued to see budget shortfalls. For a third year in a row, the staff was reduced. In total, 3 full time staff and 3 part-time staff were laid off.  With just 9 staff remaining, down from its height of 25, Affirmations no longer had the capacity to continue offering the volume of programs and services it had in the past, consolidating services where possible and relying more and more heavily on community volunteers. In addition to the changes in staff, the Board of Directors made several transitions of its own.  By October 2010, Affirmations’ Board of Directors had fallen to just seven members, down from 18 when the building opened in 2007.

2011 
After two exhaustive national searches, Affirmations extended an invitation to Antonio David Garcia to join the staff as Executive Director in August of 2011. With new leadership at the helm, a renewed sense of confidence emerged among the remaining staff and volunteers.

Immediate changes included reinstating Affirmations’ hours of operation to six days a week, 12 hours a day and ensuring a fully-attended front desk. The goodwill extended beyond Affirmations’ borders and inspired greater community-building among the LGBT community center’s across the state, setting the stage for the later creation of a statewide LGBT Community Centers Network.

In program news, efforts begun in 2010 with Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority resulted in 2011 support for Affirmations to grow its long-term capacity to serve the mental health needs of LGBT people in Southeast Michigan. Funding over the next three years would provide Affirmations the ability to begin billing insurance for mental health services. Additional one-year grants from the MacGregor Fund and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Foundation supported Affirmations in developing and offering a new cultural competency training for mental health providers across the region.

2012 
2012 was marked by the formation of a statewide LGBT Community Centers Network. Sparked by Affirmations, the group was established following a successful Gay Families Matter demonstration in Lansing, MI where all LGBT community centers in Michigan mobilized their constituents to make a unified appeal to the Michigan legislature and Governor’s office. In July of that year, Affirmations, together with the LGBT Community Centers Network (CCN), launched Hungry4Equality, a rolling hunger strike that lasted for 100 days and ended the day of the 2012 Presidential election.  The strike, staffed at continuous 24-hour increments by LGBT community members, drew attention to Michigan’s anti-equality environment, gaining national and international exposure. Support came from as far away as Thailand, England and Nova Scotia.  

In other developments, the work of the Multicultural Advisory Committee came to completion and in the spring of 2012, A Blueprint For Change was officially released, then adopted by Affirmations’ Board of Directors and finally incorporated into the 2013-2015 Strategic Plan. 2012 came to a close with Affirmations hosting its first ever, intensive two-day training, Clinical Issues and Sexual Orientation - A Training for Therapists, a first that would become a launching pad for future professional training and development.  

2013 
Financial matters at the Center continued to struggle in a slowly recovering economy. Building on the success of the previous year’s statewide organizing efforts, Affirmations launched a new fundraising event that combined statewide organizing with fund development, in the Shore2Shore Equality Ride. This was a 4-day cycling event extending from Detroit to Saugatuck and was designed to spread awareness about the importance of LGBT equality in Michigan.  Additional advocacy efforts continued to ramp up with phone banking, canvassing, and voter mobilization. Collaborative efforts with the Community Centers Network and Unity Michigan, allowed the collective organizations identify over 20 thousand pro-equality voters.

In addition to the successful advocacy programming initiatives, other services continued to thrive. Affirmations began offering HIV testing 5 out of 6 days per week and went beyond HIV to test for additional sexually transmitted infections once per month. Building on the successful development of mental health professional trainings, Affirmations was awarded a three-year grant from the Jewish Fund to expand its training into primary care – developing cultural competency training for healthcare providers in Southeast Michigan.

The programmatic and reputational success was tempered by news in October of 2013 that Dave Garcia was resigning order to pursue his passion in LGBT equality on the national front.

2014 
On January 2, 2014, the Board of Directors appointed Jon Fitzgerald, Affirmations’ existing Chief Administrative Officer, as Interim Executive Director while a search committee was formed to select the next Executive Director for Affirmations.


Mission
Affirmations provides a welcoming space where people of all sexual orientations, gender identities & expressions, and cultures can find support and unconditional acceptance, and where they can learn, grow, socialize and have fun.
 
 
Bylaws
View Affirmations complete listing of its bylaws and amended articles and stay up to date with recent changes.
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