The Ruth Ellis Center is a nonprofit that has been a fixture in the Detroit community for years for its support services for homeless and at-risk LGBTQ youth. Not only renowned locally, REC has earned national praise for its skill-building programs, HIV-prevention work and much more. Now, on the weekend of Sept. 25 through 27, it’s making use of its innovation to fundraise during the novel coronavirus pandemic during its STRIDE: The Ruth Ellis Legacy Walk Presented by Cadillac and Lear Corporation event. Supporters are invited to participate by accepting virtual pledges online and then making the effort to walk on their own time to raise money for REC’s ongoing services.
“Due to this global pandemic, obviously the young people that we serve are directly impacted, so every dollar counts. But it’s really about honoring at serving the legacy of our namesake who was just a wonderful human being who inspires us every day,” said REC Senior Development Associate Nazarina V. Mwakasege Minaya.
And Ellis’ legacy is significant. Originally from Illinois, Ellis moved to Detroit in the 1930s and continued to make her mark on the city until her death in 2000.
“This woman was openly a lesbian, a Black woman and a business owner in Detroit in the ’30s. She bought her own house, ran a printing press and then turned her home into a space that was not only a respite but a place of progress and growth for those who came to Ruth for her support,” Minaya said. “She found LGBTQ young people who were interested in going to schools, and she would provide them a safe space to congregate. Her home was that environment. So, it’s really become one of the driving forces for our workplace to be a space like that for the young Black LGBTQ people that we serve.”
Minaya also emphasized that while three miles is the recommended distance for people to travel this weekend, people are welcome to move “at their own pace because anything is better than zero.”
“It could be kayaking or whatever activity someone wants to get into, but hopefully some kind of physical aspect, because wellness just so important during this time as well,” Minaya said.
Fundamentally, the event is about being active, having fun and giving back to the memory of one of Detroit’s most impactful LGBTQ activists.
“I’m inspired by her every day,” Minaya said. “And it’s such an honor to work at an organization that bears her name.”
Learn more about REC and the event by going online to register for the event here.