By BTL Staff
FERNDALE – With less than two years of public fundraising, Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center has successfully reached and surpassed its $5.3 million capital and endowment goal to build a new community center in Ferndale. The new center will be a three-level, nearly 16,000 square foot facility in the heart of downtown Ferndale.
“This project has been a success since day one,” said Executive Director Leslie Ann Thompson. “We have had the best team working on this project; we are working for an incredibly devoted and committed community; and we have had unimaginably positive support for this project – this is truly a testament to Michigan’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.”
Affirmations kicked off its Open The Doors Capital and Endowment Campaign with a public announcement at its annual fundraising dinner, “The Big Bash,” on March 27, 2004. Since then, the fundraising campaign has received several large gifts from notable sources like the Arcus Foundation, DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Company, General Motors and the Kresge Foundation. Other large donations have come from community members Allan Gilmour and Eric Jirgens, and Margo Dichtelmiller and Nancy Katz.
“We are pleased that our Cool Cities vision for Ferndale and our public support for the Affirmations Community Center, which has been so integral to the city’s revitalization, has been matched with such generous support from the private sector,” said Liz Boyd, press secretary for Governor Jennifer Granholm.
“It’s good for the entire community when funders and foundations contribute to the growth of gay and lesbian organizations,” said Sean Kosofsky, director of policy for the Triangle Foundation. “We all benefit from a strong community center and a strong community.”
The organization was under a timing crunch to raise the money by Jan. 31 in order to qualify for a $400,000 grant awarded by the Kresge Foundation. “Thankfully, we did,” said George Westerman, board member and Volunteer Campaign Director. “The last $100,000 of a campaign is always the most difficult, but we have had a great fundraising team that helped pull us through. Although the large gifts gave us the initial push in fundraising, the smaller gifts were equally important.”
Centrally located on 9 Mile Road, just one block west of Woodward, the new center will allow Affirmations to more than double its size and scope. “In recent years, our existing home has just become too small for the hundreds of volunteers, members and youth who walk through our doors each week,” said Thompson. “We need to expand our physical space to accommodate the tremendous growth we’ve experienced.”
The new center will offer an array of features, including a public cyber cafe, library, art gallery and public-access meeting space. Upon approval, it will also provide Ferndale with its first certified environmentally-friendly building, featuring the use of energy-efficient heating and cooling equipment, plumbing technology that reduces water usage, and an interior design that reduces “sick building syndrome,” promoting a healthier living environment. Construction is set to begin this month.