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by Jessica Carreras
HIGHLAND PARK –
It’s shaping up to be a good year for the Ruth Ellis Center. Last week, the Highland Park-based non-profit social service agency for homeless LGBTQ teens received a $1 million federal grant. This comes just a month after receiving a $366,000 earmarked grant, which was celebrated with a visit by Michigan U.S. Senator Carl Levin.
This month’s grant was one of the four federal awards the center was up for. To Executive Director Grace McClelland, receiving this grant came as a surprise after being turned down for the previous three. She said that it is all owed to the reviewers, who happened to be more liberal and sympathetic toward the work of the center. “It was luck of the draw as far as I’m concerned,” McClelland said.
Unlike the earmarked grant, this one was part of a larger national fund competed for by many programs and agencies for homeless youth. Michigan organizations brought in $1.4 million for 2008 programming in this round, according to Lynn Nee, executive director of the Michigan Network for Youth and Families. Nee’s organization works with places like the Ruth Ellis Center to help with applying for grants, advocacy and lobbying, among other things. “Michigan has a history of doing very well in competing for these grants,” Nee said. “(The Ruth Ellis Center) targets the LGBT community, which makes it a more powerful reason to fund them.”
The center was one of seven that were granted the fund, which is paid out in yearly increments over a five-year period, meaning that they’ll receive $200,000 a year starting this year. All funds will go toward their transitional living program, which helps homeless teens to prepare themselves for living on their own as healthy, stable adults.
Twice in the past, McClelland has applied for funding for the street outreach program and gotten turned down. Originally, their application for transitional living funding was turned down as well, but was picked up and approved for this year.
With a 2008 budget of $1.5 million, McClelland admitted that the center is still a far cry from being financially set. “The numbers still don’t match up,” she said. “Right now, we still have to raise another $650,000.” Most of that will come from private donors and foundations.
Jon Stryker is one of them, and has been for a long time. Stryker founded the Arcus Foundation, which focuses on supporting LGBT causes and protecting the great apes. On Feb. 7, he was awarded the first-ever Creating Change Award on the first night of the conference for his work for LGBT rights. Part of his award was a $5,000 monetary gift, which he promptly turned over to the Ruth Ellis Center.
McClelland said the money will more than likely be used in their outreach program. It is a small amount compared to donations Stryker and his foundation have made in the past. “I don’t really know what to say about Jon Stryker,” McClelland gushed. “He has had a huge impact on us. We appreciate how much he loves the Ruth Ellis Center.”
To donate to the center, visit their Web site at http://ruthelliscenter.org and fill out a donation form.