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BY SHARON GITTLEMAN
FERNDALE – Has your social circuit gotten a bit dull?
Looking for new ways to become more involved in the political scene?
If so, you’ll want to visit Affirmations Lesbian and Gay Community Center in Ferndale to catch up on some exciting changes that could help you add zest to your life.
Affirmations has expanded its reach in two new program areas – social and recreation activities and civil engagement, said Program Director Deanna Tocco.
The new social and recreation coordinator, Maureen Jones, is busy planning fun activities, like ballroom dancing classes, trips to Cedar Pointe and Affirmations’ softball team.
Jones made the switch from helpline administrator to her new job in March.
“She really had a clear vision of the programs she wanted to implement,” said Tocco. “She had a good idea of the Center and what we needed to add.”
Katie Livingston took over the once part-time post running the Helpline to work as a full-time employee.
Under Livingston’s direction, the Helpline will gear-up to meet the needs of youth, women and people of color as well as connecting callers to resources in the LGBT community.
The Helpline offers people more than a way to seek out assistance when they’re facing a crisis, she said.
“They can call about what’s happening this weekend or to find an attorney,” said Tocco.
The Helpline – 800-398-GAYS, operates from 4-9 p.m., Mon.-Thu.; and from 4-11:30 p.m., on Fri. and Sat.
The civic engagement post was created to fill a big gap at Affirmations, said Tocco.
“We provide a continuum of services, starting with coming out and taking them through stages of personal growth,” she said. “The end of that is the area where we didn’t have a program – helping people advocate for themselves and the community.”
Vanessa Marr was hired as Affirmations’ civic engagement coordinator to encourage the nearly 600 weekly visitors at the Center to become more engaged in the political process.
She urges LGBT people to take action – including writing letters to the editors of area newspapers, phoning their state representatives to share their views of pending legislation and visiting the state capitol on Family Lobby Day.
“A good number of those folks don’t think they’re political,” said Tocco. “I think people get intimidated by the idea of standing up for themselves. We want to help everyone to find a way to be involved in a way they are comfortable with.”
One of Marr’s first big projects is organizing a voter registration drive, she said.
“It’s essential to get everyone out to vote,” said Marr, 34, a Troy resident. “Nothing will happen by staying at home. We have to make our needs known.”
Helping LGBT people learn more about the issues affecting their lives is an important part of her job, she said.
Measures like Michigan’s second-parent adoption initiative and anti-bullying legislation are just a few of these vital areas, said Marr, a mother of two youngsters, age 7 and 11.
“We’re trying to raise awareness,” she said.
Marr hopes to help connect people with political concerns that mesh with their own personal passions.
“My job is to help people become fully informed,” she said.
Affirmations has also hired performance artist and singer/songwriter Claude Houseworth as its full-time special events coordinator.
Special Events and Marketing Director Kathleen LaTosch said she’d like to see more Shindigz get-togethers – card tournaments, supper parties, in-home concerts and other private soirees hosted by individuals to raise money for the Center.
For more information about hosting a Shindigz event, call Houseworth at 248-398-7105 ext. 27.