By Leo Romo
Perceptions Saginaw Valley, commonly called Perceptions, has become mid-Michigan’s major LGBT organization and has been celebrating its 10th anniversary throughout 2012. The Saginaw Valley includes Saginaw, Bay City, Midland and the surrounding area. Even on its tenth anniversary, many people, LGBT and straight, are not aware that Perceptions exists. This article will explain Perceptions; its history, present and future.
The exact anniversary date for Perceptions is not easily defined as Perceptions had existed earlier – only for a couple months – but under another name: Triangle Foundation Saginaw Valley (Triangle SV).
Nov. 29, 2001 – the former Detroit-based Triangle Foundation (current Equality Michigan) hosted a meeting of “nearly 65 LGBT individuals and allies in the Tri-Cities area in an effort to build social and activist-orientated networks” at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland. (Between the Lines, Dec. 6, 2001) The meeting was facilitated by Triangle staff, Sean Kosfosky and Heather McAllister. Regarding the purpose of the meeting, Sean remarked, “We are experimenting with the idea of keeping local activists working locally.” Sean and Heather’s passion, organization and leadership skills stunned the audience. None had imagined the fruition from that Nov 2001 meeting.
Jan. 9, 2002 – As planned by Jeffrey Montgomery, then executive director, the Triangle Foundation Board formed its first-ever chapter – Triangle Foundation Saginaw Valley (Triangle SV). David Bailey and Cassy Fecht were selected as Interim co-Directors. (Triangle newsletter, Winter 2002)
Jan. 10, 2002 – The first official meeting of the Triangle Foundation SV was at the UU of Midland from 6:30 p.m. and began immediately on community organizing and education. Six committees were formed: Political/Policy, PR/Networking, Youth, Fundraising, Social, and Outreach. “For some people, this is the first time they’ve felt like they belong in the Tri-Cities; the first time they feel like they have the right to be there.” (Triangle newsletter, Winter 2002)
In early 2002, the new Triangle SV board decided to be a separate entity from the Detroit-based Triangle Foundation and filed as a nonprofit corporation of Michigan with the legal name of “Saginaw Valley GLBT Group, Inc.” The reasons for the separation were not easily communicated with to new membership.
March 21, 2002 – Saginaw Valley GLBT Group, Inc. was endorsed by the State of Michigan as a non-profit corporation with the business name “Perceptions Saginaw Valley,” commonly called Perceptions.
From Nov. 29, 2001 to March 21, 2002 were the initial meetings and activities of Triangle SV and Perceptions SV. The those days that were full of excitement, passion, and energy… and that energy continues after ten years.
Perceptions has become the largest LGBT organization in the Saginaw Valley region with more than 700 contacts and is well-respected by people from other parts of the state. Following are examples of what Perceptions has done and offers to LGBT and general communities for the Saginaw Valley:
– General meetings monthly Sept to May with guest speakers for ten years.
– Established the Perceptions Scholarship, an endowment ($20,000 and growing) for annual scholarships open to Michigan residents administered by the Saginaw Community Foundation.
– Set up speakers and special events in collaboration with Saginaw Valley State University, Delta College, PFLAG Tri-Cities, and Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Center (former B.A.S.I.S.) such as: Deb Price – national journalist; Judge Rudy Serra – Michigan’s first openly gay judge; John Corvino – Wayne State University philosophy professor; Jay Kaplan – Director at ALCU’s LGBT Project; Judy Shepard and more.
– Offered community panels, workshops and training to educate and advocate regarding LGBT issues as “Same-Sex Marriage: What’s at stake?” a public discussion regarding the 2004 MI constitutional amendment that defined marriage.
– Donated thousands of dollars to local nonprofit services thru its annual Holiday Parties and Charity Auctions, Michigan AIDS Walks, etc.
– Offers cyber Weekly Messages & Events that update mostly local LGBT events/issues, monthly Men’s Discussion Group, Bi-annual Adopt-the Highway cleaning on I-75 marked by a sign that says “next 2 miles Perceptions – Serving the GLBT community”, social and weekly Friday Dinners with local restaurants, regular and plans dances, concerts, films and similar events.
– Networks with non-Perceptions community events/groups so they are free to announce information and events in the Perceptions calendar and Weekly Messages, cyber and print, as women, disable, PFLAG, college, etc.
– Secured a facility, The Alderton Bldg. in Old Town Saginaw. Bill Giorgis, a respected Saginaw businessman, generously offered space within The Alderton Bldg. for meetings, dances, and other events at no cost.
Perceptions has been a silent blessing, always “there” when needed and will continue be true to its mission: to offer educational, social and networking opportunities and to foster a positive image for the LGBT community and our allies.
Read more information about Perceptions at http://www.PerceptionsSV.org. Subscribe to the Perceptions email listing and newsletter by sending a blank email to: PerceptionsSVemail@example.com.