In a sense, everything an lgbt community center does is – or at least should be – directed at promoting the overall health and wellness of the community it serves. Support and rap groups, HIV testing and counseling, domestic partnership registration, youth programs – these are perhaps some of the lgbt-specific services that Affirmations has become best known for over the years. But since 2002, the center has employed someone whose goal it is to specifically help improve the community's well-being and address the disparities faced by lgbt people seeking treatment to stay healthy.
Knoll Larkin has been the center's health services coordinator since July 2006. Initially, Larkin started working part-time with the center's youth program in 2003. His promotion to his current role came about after he finished up work on his masters of public health degree from the University of Michigan. Larkin took time out last week to talk about some of the health services coming to Affirmations this spring.
The first major event on the schedule is the center's second Holistic Health Fair, scheduled for March 17.
"It will probably be the first event in the new building, so that's kind of exciting," said Larkin. "There is a large interest in the lgbt community in some holistic alternatives for wellness and healing. We get a lot of questions about it, so it's good to get a lot of vendors together. A lot of folks who are going to have tables identify as lgbt themselves and want to market to the community."
Among the vendors scheduled to participate are Bev Smith of Body Connection (www.bodyconnection-nia.com) in Royal Oak, who will talk about Nia, a personal growth, body-mind-spirit fitness program that is drawn from three martial arts, three dance arts and three healing arts; massage therapist Karen Dargo (www.massagerelief.org), who in addition to massage will also provide information about vitamins and supplements; chiropractor Dr. Eric Mintz of the Gateway Wellness Center (www.gatewaywellnesscenter.com); and Reiki healer Roger Baut (www.gendaikireiki.com).
Then, on April 28, the center will host the Project Healthy Living Health Fair, with services including blood panels, dental screenings, vision testing, glucose checks, transgender health, blood pressure, depression screenings, medication consults and more.
In May, the center will present its second Maybe Baby Workshop on the 12th.
"It was really successful last year, we had a really large turnout," said Larkin. "This is kind of a chance for folks to get together who are considering children and look at all the different ways that children may come into the lives of lgbt people, whether it's from insemination or adoption. Folks come in and talk about their parenting experiences and how children came into their lives."
In addition to these larger presentations, there are courses and programs happening every week at the center, including smoking cessation classes, healthy relationship workshops, Pilates, yoga, and ballroom dance lessons. There's even Weight Watchers for those hoping to shed a few pounds – or at least there will be, as soon as enough folks sign up for it.
"Because we do it through Weight Watchers they need 15 people," Larkin explained. "So as soon as we have enough folks, we'll start back up with that. We have had a lot of success in the past when the group was able to run, so I'm hoping it will have that sort of 'get ready for summer' sort of appeal."
If these all these programs aren't enough, Larkin says the number will increase as soon as Affirmations moves into its new building.
"With the new space, we'll really be upping our physical activities," he said. "The health services program and the social and recreation program will be working together to offer more exercise classes and such."
There will even be half-court basketball in the new community room. So whatever your health and wellness needs, a good place to start addressing them is definitely at Affirmations. For more information, give Larkin a call, or visit http://www.goaffirmations.org.