Monica Mills and her husband Larry are instrumental to the success of events like Ferndale Blues Festival, Ferndale Pub Crawl and others. Monica is a strong ally who has been with what is now called Michigan AIDS Coalition for over 10 years, and serves as Volunteer Coordinator for fundraising events for the nonprofit. She and Larry also created the annual End of Prohibition Party which raises money for the Ferndale Goodfellows. As Ferndale Pride approaches it is a good opportunity to show some of the behind-the-scenes work of the volunteers and encourage others to join her in making Ferndale Pride safe and fun for everyone.
1 Why is HIV/AIDS advocacy work important to you?
It has been interesting learning about the issue and the community. Our work helps people, often the folks with the fewest resources or inadequate support. I like giving back to the community.
2 What changes have you seen at MAC through the years?
MAC has always been a “grass rootsy” kind of community based organization that focuses on results oriented programs. It is still largely that way, not too big and not too small. When we merged MAPP and the Michigan AIDS Fund about 5 years ago, we combined very talented staff for even more programs and results. There were some bumps in the road, but we are still a great organization that keeps churning out effective interventions, HIV testing, prevention education, supportive programs and successful fundraising. MAC’s present CEO, Terry Ryan is always thinking ahead to accomplish our goals with ever changing funding.
3 What accomplishments at MAC are you proud of?
When Craig Covey brought me on as an intern, those 10 years ago, I was working on a program called Lesbian-A-Sisters. We recruited volunteers to assist differently-abled women with errands, doctor’s visits, home chores, and other needs. Many of the clients also began to volunteer. Even after all these years, that is what I am most proud of.
4 How long have you lived in Ferndale, and why do you like it here?
I’ve been in Ferndale more than 40 years and in the school district since I was born. I love the sense of community, and vibrancy, and the diversity. It is an amazing town, walkable and affordable. The taxes and water bills are a little high, but I still love the town, neighbors, and businesses and would have trouble ever leaving.
I couldn’t do this work without the support of my loving husband of 31 years, Larry. We are fortunate to have been taken in by the LGBT community as allies, and we are proud to give back to them as well.
5 What events do you work on through the year? How much do those events raise?
DIFFA, (Design Industry Foundation Fighting AIDS) and ArtWorks Detroit are the largest fundraising events each year and I am part of the team that makes these very cool successful events happen. We have raised several hundred thousand dollars over the years on those two events alone. And of course I co-chair the annual Ferndale Blues Festival and the Annual Ferndale Pub Crawl each year with my mentor, Craig Covey. Over the past 15 years, those events have raised over $400,000 for MAC and other local groups. Now I am part of Ferndale Pride, working with Craig and many others, for an event that is growing just like all the others.
6 How many volunteers do you coordinate with?
We use lots of volunteers for MAC tasks and at all of our events. I have databases with hundreds of folks who help with office tasks, HIV outreach, the Pride Festival, the Blues Festival, Pub Crawl, AIDS Walks, DIFFA, ArtWorks Detroit…really everything. Most volunteer for more than one event. Pride is growing and we would like assistance from a hundred people at this year’s event on June 1. None of these events could happen without the volunteers that come out to help. We cheer each other on, make new interesting friends and contacts and learn new skills with every event. I’ve met and become friends with some on the most giving people offering support and their time to a cause that helps others.
7 What kinds of things do volunteers for Ferndale Pride do?
There are many tasks to be done including planning, promoting, handing out posters and flyers, fundraising, advance events, bar parties, staffing entrances the day of the festival, working at the Ferndale Pride Event Staff and Volunteer check-in table and staff the volunteer room, security, moving tents tables and chairs, stage support, recycling / trash pickup, and breaking down the event when it’s over. Tasks are divided into short shifts so it’s convenient for everyone’s schedule. Please offer a block of time if you are unsure which task, we’ll find a good fit for you.
Please, contact me, [email protected] be get involved. Also find out more about Ferndale Pride at http://www.ferndalepride.org. For more on MAC go to http://michiganaidscoalition.org/.