by Tana Michaels
Outstanding members of Saginaw and Bay City’s gay community – plus one from Washington, D.C. – will be honored at the Perceptions-sponsored second annual Saginaw Valley LGBT Pride Awards Banquet at 6 p.m. June 29 at Saginaw’s Andersen Enrichment Center. Perceptions Saginaw Valley is a TriCity LGBT organization.
The event will include a reception with wine and appetizers, followed by dinner and the award presentations.
Jay Kaplan will be the keynote speaker for the evening. Kaplan has been the staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan’s LGBT Project since it began operations in 2001. Kaplan will be delivering a speech entitled “Michigan Supreme Court and LGBT Equality.”
Several honorees will be recognized for their service to the LGBT community in the Saginaw area.
The Lifetime Acheivement Award has been earned by Richard (last name withheld by request), who helped found local chapters of Dignity (1984), Wellness Networks (1988) and PFLAG (1990). He was also involved with HIV/AIDS work, including helping to bring the AIDS Quilt to the Tri-Cities, as well as planning and fundraising many local LGBT events since the mid-1980s with many other pioneers.
The Savoy Grill ( owners Steve West and Jim Atwood) will be presented with the Business Award. The Savoy Grill is a popular local restaurant that has generously donated money, time and spirit to the LGBT community. This year, they also started holding a gay night on Wednesdays, called Savoy Pride. They served dinner at the 2009 Pride Banquet, and will also serve this year.
The Political Award will go to former state Rep. Andy Coulouris. Also a former Saginaw city council member, Coulouris has supported LGBT equality through proposed bills in Lansing, including second-parent adoption, Matt’s Safe Schools Law for anti-bullying, and adding the words “sexual orientation, gender identity and expression” to Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, intending to stop discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment and other areas.
Dr. Charissa Urbano will be honored with the Pride Award. Urbano is a professor of Biology and director of the Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence at Delta College, where she has established talking points of The Genetics of Homosexuality. She has presented and published LGBT issues at state and national conferences and workshops. Urbano speaks on behalf of LGBT faculty/staff regarding same-sex benefits and was co-chair in the development of Prism, the campus organization for LGBT faculty, staff and students.
Tim Atkinson will be given the Volunteer Award. Atkinson maintained an informative website for local LGBT people long before Perceptions, and he continues as their webmaster. He conceived and organized the efforts to establish the Perceptions Endowed Scholarship Fund. He devotes countless hours to planning, volunteering and organizing events and activities.
Fred Eland will get the Rising Star Award. Eland is describd as very friendly, personable and always willing to lend a hand when needed. He has become involved in many of the projects and functions of Perceptions.
Finally, the Unity Award – given to the individual who demonstrates the ability to work with many organizations for the betterment of the area LGBT community – will go to Terry Zajac, who opened his Bay City home for the first Chocolate Party in 1991 to raise funds for the Wellness Networks TriCities and its phone line. Over time, he hosted many chocolate and garden parties for PFLAG Tri-Cities – and later for a fledgling organization called Triangle Saginaw Valley – renamed Perceptions Saginaw Valley. Zajac’s longtime generosity became the seeds for a multitude of LGBT groups and causes.
Seating is limited for the awards banquet. Tickets are $25 per person, $15 for students and those on a low income, and can be purchased at http://www.perceptionssv.org, or by calling 989-891-1429.
Saginaw Valley LGBT Pride Awards Banquet
6 p.m. June 29
Andersen Enrichment Center, Saginaw