After a national search, SAGE Metro Detroit welcomes its new executive director, Angela Gabridge.
Gabridge, an LGBTQ+ ally, has an extensive career in human services and social justice, making her an ideal candidate to succeed former executive director Angie Perone. Before joining SAGE, she held positions at Accounting Aid Society, ACLU of Michigan, Affirmations and The Helm. Pride Source spoke exclusively to Gabridge about her exciting new role and how, as an ally, she can support the LGBTQ+ community.
How did you get introduced to SAGE Metro Detroit?
I actually have known about SAGE since its inception stage. I was on staff at Affirmations with Judy Lewis and Jay Kaplan — some of the organization’s founding members — who were involved in putting together funding support to get SAGE declared as an affiliate. It started as Gay Elders of Metro Detroit. They were able to get certified as an affiliate chapter of the national organization, which brings all sorts of benefits for the community that we serve and helps with brand recognition and organizational sustainability.
I remember sitting in those conversations. When I was at the ACLU, working with Jay Kaplan, a board member at SAGE, he would always keep me abreast of things happening with the organization. He would always let me know whenever they had a success and when a grant would come in. When they were able to hire their first executive director, I remember having that conversation with him.
So, it has always been on my radar. People who have always been involved in a high level in that organization have been a part of my network for a long time. Because I’ve worked previously in senior services and the social justice and LGBTQ+ communities, it was a great opportunity to marry those two things together.
What do you hope to bring to SAGE Metro Detroit?
I hope to bring the particular skills that I’ve acquired throughout my career, which focus on non-profit administration and leadership, along with philanthropy. So, SAGE has an outstanding program team in place. I hope to bring SAGE’s infrastructure expertise and philanthropy piece up to the next level. I say all the time, “I’m here to learn as much as I’m there to lead.” And, I’m really a tool to be used by the organization and the community to better this work.
As an ally who does not identify as LGBTQ+, do you have any hesitations?
I think for me, as a person who identifies as an ally, it’s important for me to be really respectful and aware of the spaces in which it’s appropriate for me to play a role. It’s also important for me to be aware of the spaces where I should take a backseat and assure the leading people have the resources they need to be successful.
What programs or initiatives are you looking forward to the most?
The first order of business is getting my arms around everything as far as the financing and infrastructure are concerned. I have a lot of one-on-one meetings scheduled with the staff and contractors, so I can learn about what they do and what their hopes are for the organization, and how they like to work. The second part of it is stepping in and helping lift up the programs they have already. There are a couple of projects that the organization is working on right now. They got off to a little bit of a slow start because of the pandemic awfulness.
They have this nursing training program that they’re rolling out. It’s the first program of its kind that’s specifically tailored to work with nursing care staff in long-term care facilities. They are coming in and providing comprehensive training, from the language you use with people, the forms you use and how those are structured in a culturally responsive care environment.
This program is all for nursing care staff in long-term care facilities serving the LGBTQ+ community. There’s a ton of outreach to be done in facilities to get them enrolled in that program. It’s a grant-funded program, so it’s completely free of charge. It’s a great opportunity, and it’s a great opportunity to get some CEU credits for the nursing staff.
The other thing I‘m really excited about is the transgender aging project. This project is a partnership between SAGE and Corktown Health. They’re developing a volunteer network of health advocates that can accompany transgender older adults either virtually or in-person to doctor’s appointments so they can advocate for them. They’re also implementing and designing a transgender workshop series called “Love Your Aging and Trans Body.” This initiative is to encourage self-care and self-love. So, there are all these issues that we have to aging, but of course, it is much more complex and nuanced in the transgender community.
How did you feel when you were offered the position?
I’m so incredibly humbled that they believe in my skill set enough to step in and work with this incredible team they have built. Really, for Angie and all of the staff and board members, SAGE has been a labor of love. They have gotten this organization to this really exciting tipping point, where they have a really good pool of resources and grant-funding and connections and community partnerships from which to work. They’re really ready to take all of that to the next level. So, the fact they were willing to trust me to step in, along with the other team members, is really humbling.