by Jessica Carreras
DETROIT – If the economy is hurting Affirmations, their annual big bash celebration didn’t show it.
On Saturday, March 21, the Ferndale LGBT community center hosted the 10th annual night of dinner, dancing and fundraising – with an emphasis on the fun – at the Motor City Casino. There, around 400 people gathered in formal wear to celebrate 20 years of Affirmations and 50 years of Motown while raising money for Affirmations.
“I’m determined that this is going to be a great year for Affirmations and our community,” Affirmations CEO Leslie Thompson said in her opening remarks. “I will stop at nothing to see that we provide the services and programs that are needed.”
That determination was apparent in the night’s mood, which focused on the fun of Motown – instead of the bleakness of the economy.
Thompson, decked out in an argyle vest and orange shoes for the occasion, regaled the audience with the history of the center. As a themed twist, the part-time comedienne spliced lyrics from Motown songs into the story. The remarks generated big laughs. “It started out small,” she said of the center, “…and folks began to understand that there was someone reaching out to them saying ‘don’t worry, I’ll be there.'”
“There was a message shared at Affirmations that I had not heard outside those four walls,” she said of her first memories of the center. “Everybody’s got the right to love.”
Aside from their partners, attendees also showed a lot of love for this year’s auction items, which included some Detroit-themed pieces and also several one-of-a-kind packages. The live auction showcased such items as a hot air balloon ride, a “Detroit Stay-cation” at Motor City Casino and Hotel, a massage package and tickets to the sold-out 2009 Tony Awards.
The Lorna Utley Outstanding Ally Award, which is given out every year at the Big Bash, was presented to Carolyn Burdi, who has been involved with Affirmations for over a decade, including being a board member in 1997, when she was the only straight ally at the table.
“You never think about the recognition from your peers,” Birdie said, accepting the award. “I am overwhelmed.”
The Chuck Moyer and Tim Cavanaugh Philanthropy Award was presented to Torii Hamilton, who was a co-chair of this year’s Big Bash and a longtime donor and fundraiser for the center.
Though economic struggles drove numbers down from over 500 attendees last year, the Affirmations Big Bash did not lack in attendance – and Thompson was quick to thank those who gave what they could, both by attending and by donating throughout the year.
“You have created a lifeline over the past 20 years and thank you so much for weathering the current economic struggles and being here tonight,” Thompson said, addressing those in attendance.
“Don’t get me wrong, this year was not easy. As the night goes on, you’ll begin to understand, if you didn’t already know, that I ain’t too proud to beg,” she continued. “But don’t take it personally. I am like this every day to every person I meet. As a matter of fact, each day around 1 p.m., you can hear me in the (Affirmations) lobby saying ‘Please, Mr. Postman, bring me another check!'”
To learn more about Affirmations – or to make a donation – visit http://www.goaffirmations.org.