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Making a DIFFAerance

By |2012-08-23T09:00:00-04:00August 23rd, 2012|Michigan, News|

The first time Michael Bartus really stopped and paid attention to Michigan AIDS Coalition (MAC) was back in December when they brought Max Fisher in to do a lunchtime presentation about his journey in AIDS activism. “I came to hear him speak, but I left very impressed with MAC, seeing all the people here that cared and learning about what MAC does,” Bartus said. “So I decided to get involved.”
The 65 year-old West Bloomfield-based activist is now serving on the host committee for DIFFA’s Dining by Design Dinner on Sept. 15. And he is also celebrating another activist accomplishment – a recent appointment by Governor Rick Snyder to the Commission on Services to the Aging.
Bartus had always been a financial supporter of charities and a hard-working advocate for the aging, but after retirement in 2001 he has more time to devote to causes that are important to him, like AIDS prevention, Alzheimer’s support, and care for the aging.
“I am honored to have been appointed by Governor Snyder to serve as a member of the Michigan Commission on Services to the Aging, the state level decision-making body that oversee the work of the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging. The Commission approves the funding for the 16 Area Agencies on Aging that then support a network of in-home care and nutrition services, among many other forms of assistance. In 2011, the Commission oversaw a budget of $93 million,” he said. He represents the interest of older adults from Livingston, Oakland, Macomb, Washtenaw, and St. Clair Counties. Prior to the appointment he served three years on the state Advisory Council.
In addition to this appointment he serves on the LGBT Older Adult Coalition, which is actively working toward becoming a SAGE (Services and Advocacy for GLBT Eleders) Affiliate. The Coalition has held conferences with community elders to determine their needs. They have implemented a competency training program for agencies that serve older adults, to make sure they are familiar with LGBT issues. They are also working towards creating a certification program, so that people can know what hospitals, home care agencies, assisted living facilities, and other agencies are LGBT open and affirming.
Bartus is nearing old age, and even though he has always been financially successful, the thought of not knowing which care providers are affirming or not is unsettling. “The thing that bothers me the most is relocation should I become widowed and finding a hospitable place. It’s not a fear of getting older, but a loss of control of the environment,” he said. “There is a point where you cannot function by yourself, even with care. I’ve always been fortunate enough that I could always take care of what I need, but as I look at services for the aging, I see that being able to pay the rent does not guarantee that I will be safe or welcome.”
“I grew up in a neighborhood in Ann Arbor that was largely older people,” Bartus said. “My leanings were always in that kind of environment. My parents were very much engaged in giving back to the community. I remember being age four and selling Christmas wrapping paper for U of M scholarships and my father would take me on calls for donations to the Community Chest, which was like a community foundation.”
Bartus got his degree in Public Health and an undergrad in Psychology of Aging, and he set out on a life of working on behalf of others. He previously served as director of development at the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute in New York, as director of development for the Visiting Nurse Association Inc. in Oak Park, as director of the Empowerment Zone Care Management program at the Detroit Area Agency on Aging and as a long term care consultant for the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging. He’s also done work with the Peace Corps and United Way, among other nonprofits.
The upcoming event, DIFFA’s Dining by Design Gala Dinner is another way that Bartus is using his expertise and care to help others. Saying that he was “impressed by the work of the organization,” Bartus has added MAC to the list of charities that has a place in his heart. Like many older adults in the gay community, Bartus has lost friends to the disease, which still is without a cure. MAC helps to educate people about the dangers of unprotected sex and offers testing, counseling, and other programs to assist victims of HIV and AIDS.
DIFFA is the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Each year they host a series of upscale fundraisers with immaculately-designed themes to attract donations to the cause of fighting AIDS. The Detroit event will be held Saturday, Sept. 15 and will include “awe-inspiring tablescapes” that “will become interactive dining areas where guests – including Bravo’s Madison Hildebrand – will enjoy a gourmet dinner prepared by Matt Prentice, A Culinary Experience. The motivational Drum Cafe will perform during the event’s experiential auction that will feature 100 items, including a breath-taking cruise on the Zambezi Queen (in Africa). The Motor City’s own jazz crooner Ben Sharkey will also perform while couture fashions are on display.”
There is also a Coctails by Design event on Sept. 13 which will showcase 100 original works of art curated by ArtWorks Detroit, a team of professional artists who are dedicated to the fight against HIV. Prominent Artists -including Thom Bohnert, Carl Demeulenaere, Gerhardt Knodel, Yoko Ono, Bill Rauhauser, Clinton Snider, Russell Thayer and Vagner Whitehead – will have artwork featured in thrilling live and silent auctions. Guests will also enjoy scrumptious food prepared by 25 of the hippest local restaurants, La Crema Wines, and EFFEN(R) Vodka specialty cocktails. Innovative designer tablescapes and room schemes created by Michigan’s foremost interior designers will be on display, including an installation created for La Crema by nationally renowned designer Marc Blackwell, and Lincoln’s installation designed by architectural giant, Rosetti. Detroit Flyhouse and DJ PowdrBlu will perform.
Tickets ($100 Cocktails By Design/Artworks Detroit Auction and $250 Dining By Design Detroit) are available by clicking on the Events tab at http://www.michiganaidcoalition.org. For more information, contact Shanthi Sivanandham at 248-545-1435, Ext. 105.

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