Rick and Janet Glasgow bring more than fresh baked cookies and a home cooked meal when they come to the Ruth Ellis Center on Monday evenings. They bring a sense of stability for the LGBTQ teens who use the drop-in center.
The at-risk youth, often homeless or runaways, find safety and resources at Ruth Ellis. But it’s the steady staff and regular volunteers that help the youth feel comfortable enough to use the center’s services.
The Glasgows come from Sterling Heights every Monday to share both food and support to an average of 30 teens each week. When the weather is warm there are fewer, and on cold wintery days it can double.
Janet first learned about the Ruth Ellis Center in November 2011 when she saw that Gardner White, the furniture store, had included Ruth Ellis as one of their featured charities. Having grown up in an affirming home with three gay brothers, Janet had no problem being comfortable in the LGBT community. It wasn’t until recently that the pain of rejection hit home.
“My brother’s partner was diagnosed with end stage lymphoma. Even as he was dying his family didn’t accept him. I knew I needed to be more active and involved. When I heard about Ruth Ellis, what a unique place it is, I knew.”
She started in November and Rick joined her a few months later after recovering from back surgery.
Rick has built bonds with the teens also, and he takes his volunteering seriously. “Being gay, they’re not accepted at home. We didn’t have that problem. The kids need somewhere to be accepted. They need an older person to look up to and want to act like that gives them respect.”
While there, the Glasgows assist in preparing meals and snacks, help staff clean the kitchen after dinner, help the youth in the Cyber Center, assist with laundry and in general be good listeners and set a good example.
The Glasgows give to the community in other ways too. Janet, who works in an elder care facility, has done a 60 mile breast cancer walk, and the couple helps put on a Polish dinner benefit for their church, St. Daniel’s Parish in Clarkston.
“This is the most I’ve ever volunteered for one place, and that says a lot. I’m here to stay for the kids,” Janet said. “We really see the difference and we’re consistent factor in their lives. When I leave here at night I know I’m giving something to the kids.”
Rick is hooked too. “I feel guilty sometimes coming here, I feel like I get more out of it than the kids do,” he said.
Ruth Ellis Center has programs to assist youth, including a street outreach program called Second Stories, the Drop-In Center, and transitional living programs – all focused on LGBTQ youth. They are always looking for volunteers, particularly those who are able to make regular commitments. Volunteers undergo a background check and training.
Volunteers are expected to accept young adults as they are and where they are, commit to the youth and not “drop out” after a short time, value the team, be a good role model, demonstrate maturity, responsibility and caring and to be available to help