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BY AJ TRAGER
OAK PARK – Gil Evans and Don Nadel met in Toledo, Ohio and have been together for 57 years. Inspired by the screening of “Gen Silent,” a documentary that follows the lives of LGBT seniors struggling with harassment and living in the closet in senior facilities or with homophobic caregivers, the couple announced that they will be donating a $20,000 gift to SAGE Metro Detroit.
Late last year, the LGBT Older Adult Coalition of Metro Detroit announced that it would be transitioning into a new brand, “SAGE Metro Detroit,” and would be upgrading its range of services for LGBT older adults. The initiative to become a SAGE chapter began in January 2015 and was officially realized on Oct. 28, 2015.
As one of just 29 chapters serving 21 states across the country, SAGE Metro Detroit will provide LGBT cultural competency training, help create safe spaces and provide a framework for many programs and services that are lacking for LGBT older adults in the area.
Providing services costs money and at the start of the new launch, SAGE Metro Detroit had very little in the bank to ramp up the services needed right now.
Nadel, a retired art teacher from Oak Park, and Evans, a retired hairdresser and store owner, were asked by SAGE Metro Detroit volunteer Judy Lewis to be on a “talk-back” panel following the screening of the documentary last fall. After managing a relationship that has endured 57 years of love and growth, the couple finally married this year on June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court announced their decision to make marriage equality legal throughout the country.
Nadel and Evans are very active in the LGBT community. They attend the Senior Koffee Klatch meet up at Affirmations and regularly play cards at two senior centers among other activities.
The “Gen Silent” film really hit home for Nadel and Evans, who recently lost a very close friend and say that without their companionship, their friend would not have had anyone to look out for him during the last days of his life.
After discussing some of the specific issues that affect the aging LGBT community, including isolation and the fear of being alone after losing one’s partner, Evans and Nadel both spoke up and said that they would each individually give $10,000 to help SAGE Metro Detroit get off the ground.
“I would really like it if SAGE could get a paid staff person. I’d like to see Judy (Lewis) get paid,” Evans told BTL. “She is so active and does good work. I’d like to see some social networking. I don’t know what programs the money could fund, but assisting the elderly is important. Many need that assistance right now.”
The couple is financially secure, Evans says, but he worries what would happen if one of them were to to suddenly pass. He worries about isolation. “That could be Don or I,” Evans says.
“We’re hoping that it (SAGE) will work out. I’d like to be involved in SAGE, maybe do some volunteer work. I feel like I can still do so much for the organization,” Evans said.