Ruth Ellis Center Kicks Off June With STRIDE for PRIDE Fundraiser

By |2021-05-21T11:13:26-04:00May 21st, 2021|Michigan, News|

To celebrate Pride Month and raise critical funds for the organization, the Ruth Ellis Center will be stepping out for its second annual Ruth Ellis Legacy Walk the weekend of June 4 through June 6, appropriately named STRIDE for PRIDE. Individuals are encouraged to either form teams or stride alone and virtually collect pledges. Then they can walk, run, bike or otherwise go the roughly three-mile distance, all to advance the Center’s mission of creating opportunities with LGBTQ+ young people to build their vision for a positive future.

Nazarina V. Mwakasege-Minaya is REC’s senior development associate and co-host of the “Voices of REC” podcast. She explained what inspired the first STRIDE event last September.

“We tend to have a lot of events, and it’s largely because we love being with our community. We love them being able to meet portions of the staff, even some of the young people that we work with, and it was a very difficult time for us to not have those kinds of interactions,” Mwakasege-Minaya said. “Because I think largely those interactions really support the outcomes of a lot of these events, which is some pretty critical funding for some very important programming for our young people here at the center.”

Funding supports and showing Pride however possible.

Funds raised by the event benefit the organization in its entirety, Mwakasege-Minaya said, not a specific program. Those programs include a health and wellness center for both primary care and behavioral health services; a drop-in center for LGBTQ+ youth ages 13 to 30 to hang out and be themselves in a safe environment; the Clairmount Center, a 43-unit permanent supportive housing program; the Center for Lesbian and Queer Women and Girls, known as Kofi House, that provides advocacy/outreach and case management services through an equity lens to empower girls and young women ages 13 to 30; and the Ruth Ellis Institute, whose mission is creating a world where LGBTQ+ youth can be safe and supported in all systems of care. The institute also offers quarterly trainings.

With virtual fundraising new to many organizations at the time, Mwakasege-Minaya said September’s inaugural STRIDE event exceeded REC staff’s expectations. Though pregnant at the time, she laced up her walking shoes, too.

“I got out and about,” Mwakasege-Minaya said. “I was just in the middle of the first and second trimesters, so obviously, you’re told when you’re ‘with child’ that you should probably do your best to move around. And I knew it would be sort of a last hurrah for warmer weather.”

While participating, she saw the creative interpretations of the term “stride” and the many ways that participants were able to work around their own schedule and needs to support REC.

“There were some that took walks around their neighborhood, used it as an opportunity to join in multiple times — you know, when you have dogs you find yourself out in the street multiple times — so people would find themselves striding multiple times a day over the weekend,” Mwakasege-Minaya said. “Some people went kayaking; some people went swimming; we had some supporters way, way, way, way out in Seattle who decided to go dancing — like in their house.

“It sort of expanded my mind as to what a virtual walk could look like,” she continued. “It’s really just about getting up and moving, and however you’re comfortable … knowing that while you’re doing it you’re supporting this incredible legacy of Ruth Ellis.”

Honoring Ruth Ellis with every stride

Holding the event during Pride month when many in the community are still unable to be together is significant, Mwakasege-Minaya said. She described the meaning of the word “stride” as walking in long, decisive steps in a specified direction. And that can be compared to the way the center aims to meet its mission.

“And that is what Pride is all about,” Mwakasege-Minaya said. “LGBTQ people — it’s been a journey, but the journey has a very clear direction. And it’s equity. It’s equality and it’s equity for LGBTQ young people and our community at large as well.”

Finally, Mwakasege-Minaya wanted to thank those who are already part of the Ruth Ellis family and welcome newcomers.

“This is our way of being closer to you when we’re still unable to be close, as well as celebrate the roots of our community,” Mwakasege-Minaya said. “We’re very much in combination with being an LGBTQ-focused organization — particularly for the youth — a health and wellness organization as well. And so much of walking is really about centering oneself, getting from one place to another, and we’re hoping that the place that we’re moving toward is a safe and supportive space for LGBTQ people.”

To register for this free event visit ruthelliscenter.org. STRIDE can be participated in as either an individual or a team, and personal websites to raise awareness about this cause can be created through the registration site, too. Become a sponsor by contacting Mark Erwin, [email protected].

About the Author:

Ellen Shanna Knoppow
Ellen Knoppow is a writer, editor and activist.