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Creating Pride In The Tri-Cities: Rev. Kathy VanBuskirk

By | 2013-06-20T09:00:00-04:00 June 20th, 2013|Michigan, News|

Rev. Kathy VanBuskirk lived in Saginaw all her life, but didn’t come out until she was 45. She and her partner Ann White left, are approaching their 13-year anniversary, though VanBuskirk is sad their relationship still has no legal recognition in Michigan.

Why does it matter that on Saturday, June 22 thousands of people will be gathering on Ojibway Island in Saginaw Tri-City Pride? To event coordinator Rev. Kathy VanBuskirk, the answer comes from the responses she gets from those who attend.
“Some of the most rewarding part of this is having young people come up with tears in their eyes thanking me, saying they’d never have this in their community,” she said. “And for the older people too, who have worked so hard to make LGBT rights a possibility. Some of the people who come are in their 70s. They remember what it was like to be in the closet.”
VanBuskirk lived in Saginaw all her life, but didn’t come out until she was 45. She and her partner Ann White are approaching their 13-year anniversary, though VanBuskirk is sad their relationship still has no legal recognition in Michigan.
“When I came out, there were no resources. I happened to find a lesbian women’s support group that’s not here any longer,” she said. In honor of that first group, VanBuskirk has started another one called Women’s Room 2. “I get people who come once in a while from Lansing and Detroit because if people are not out in their area they want to go to another area.”
VanBuskirk is the founder of Divine Light Interfaith Ministry, which she started in 2005 after attending a small worship group that encouraged members to do talks about faith-based topics. With a foundation already in place through her associate’s degree in child development, VanBuskirk was confident that through faith she could lead and help others. “I found an online program to be in ministry, and it took two years to do the program. I was ordained in October 2005. I started doing stuff from my house and trying to find more ways of reaching out to the community. I do a lot of spiritual counseling, couples counseling, parenting and individual counseling. I have had a lot of people approach me who are just starting to come out.”
The ministry now meets at 301 Cass in Saginaw, a space that was donated after the first Pride three years ago.
Organizing Tri-City Pride made sense when paired with Divine Light’s other services.
“I was just sitting here one day after going to the Lansing Pride, thinking that it gives me such a good feeling going. I thought, we can do this here. I got friends together and they looked at me like I was crazy. And I said ‘No, we can do this.'”
VanBuskirk credits Dow Chemical for stepping up and providing a $3,000 sponsorship each year to make the event possible. Booth rentals, other sponsorships and donations bring money into the Pride board to continue to help grow the event. This year there are over 50 vendors signed up. Last year over 2,500 people attended.
“It’s gonna be fantastic,” VanBuskirk said. “We’ve got a good line of entertainment including the band All Day Monday, Sandy Mulligan, Abbie Stauffer from Ann Arbor, that girl is fantastic. We also have the Bayside Bombshell Burlesque Team. They are cleaning up their normal act to be family-orientated. We’ll have a Drag Queen show. We have a hoola hoop dancer. It’s almost mesmerizing watching her. The mayor of Saginaw is going to be speaking. So is Congressman Dan Kildee and attorney Alicia Skillman. Can’t forget Drag King Rebellion.”
The only point of uncertainty is if there will be enough volunteers to help.
“It’s been hard to get volunteers. Whether it’s here, Grand Rapids or wherever. People think if they volunteer they won’t be able to enjoy the event. But if we get enough and everyone spends an hour then it works out,” she said. Those who want to volunteer can show up an hour before the event, talk to organizers at the event, or stick around at the end.

To find out more about Tri City Pride, check out their website at http://tricitylgbtpride.com/Home_Page.php

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