BY JONATHAN W. THURSTON
In the spirit of the holiday season, it's important to think about ways to give back to the community, and helping local non-profits is often a great way to do that.
Located in Ferndale, just north of Detroit, Affirmations works to provide a safe space for people of all genders and sexual orientations. Many of their services include offering various support groups as well as health education, youth programming and leadership training.
We spoke with Jeffrey Olivier, a volunteer at Affirmations, to hear his thoughts on the organization.
"When I walked into Affirmations I did not know many gay people," Olivier said. "Somewhat low self esteem. I was bullied and harassed on my job for being gay. However, the day I walked into Affirmations, my life changed forever. I gained a strong circle of friends who have been friends for the last 20 years. I also started to have the freedom to be who I was without dogma. Affirmations is like a gift that keeps giving to many center users."
Olivier defends volunteering as a great way to help both yourself and the community as a whole.
"I would say volunteering at Affirmations is a great way to meet others in the community. Help build skills. It feeds my soul to know that I made someone's life better." And he feels he is genuinely making a difference for the Affirmations clientele. "I never wanted others in the community to ever have to go through the things I went through as a gay man."
He goes on to give more detail on how he feels he has helped people. "Volunteering at
Affirmations means that any time someone comes into the center, I know every time they leave I made their life better. Affirmations is a live helpline for those in the community. Whether they want to meet others or are struggling through coming out, they will always have me as a friend for support."
While many of Olivier's experiences have been rather positive, a lot of times they can be incredibly somber. "Currently, I run five support groups at Affirmations and work at the volunteer resource desk. I run a group called the Men's Group at Affirmations. One of Affirmations' oldest groups and still going strong. One evening we had a topic. Suicide. That evening, I prevented a gentleman from going home and taking his life. Another instance I remember a center user who was thrown out of their house. They approached the desk. I remember giving her resources that gave her a safe place to sleep. She was thrown out of her home because she was gay."
Olivier finds that Affirmations is a place where anyone and everyone can be treated with dignity and respect. It's a safe space for people to be who they are, and volunteering and funding the center allow people in need to have the resources they need in order to survive and thrive.
Affirmations is always open to people interested in volunteering or donating to help advance their resources. They have event spaces available for rent, and they also have an art gallery to showcase LGBTQI performance and art exhibits. And of course, giving to Affirmations is facilitating their being able to continue to support local LGBTQI people by having those safe spaces and support groups available.
"Together we build a community," Oliver said of Affirmations. "Always, anyone who needs support please feel free to come to Affirmations." And of course, give the gift of giving this holiday season and support the Michigan LGBTQI community.
Donate to 10x10x10
Affirmations is celebrating the 10th anniversary of the community center building where the organization provides programs and services to the 20,000 guests that visit the center annually. To continue to assist the community, Affirmations is calling on its supporters to donate $10 and to tell 10 friends to donate, all in celebration of the 10-year anniversary. Simply text an amount to donate to 248-600-5220, visit http://gaybe.am/IN online and share this information with 10 friends.