Ahead of a scheduled rebranding in December, when SAGE Metro Detroit will break away from the national SAGE organization, the senior LGBTQ+ nonprofit welcomes two new staffers to prominent positions.
Pride Source reached out to Kat Mehrer (they/them), who will serve as Program Director, and Jon Fitzgerald (he/him), who will take on the Executive Coordinator role, to learn more about their backgrounds and what they hope to accomplish at SAGE.
What led each of you to these positions in the geriatrics field?
Kat Mehrer: I grew up around older adults. My dad was a nursing home administrator for 40 years, so I spent most of my childhood around older adults. While I didn’t initially intend to follow in my father’s footsteps, I found myself drawn to the field. During my undergrad I became more and more upset as I realized how often older adults were ignored when it came to research, services, healthcare and more. I couldn’t ignore this fact, and I wanted to do something to help change it.
I learned so much from older adults growing up, and I wanted to give back. During my master’s program I became involved with SAGE through my work with Alzheimer’s Association. As a member of the LGBT community, I was overjoyed to find an organization that shared the same sentiments that I did, and it became a goal of mine to one day work for that organization. When I found out SAGE was hiring for the Program Director position, I could not have been more excited, and I am so honored to be able to join the team.
Jon Fitzgerald: Though Affirmations [where he worked previously] has programming for all aspects of the LGBTQ+ community, I was very much drawn to SAGE for a couple of reasons. The first being the fact that I am an LGBTQ+ senior as are most of my friends. The work being done by this amazing organization is targeted specifically to make my life better as well as many that I consider family.
The second has to do with my mom, who recently passed away. During the last few years of her life, I watched her struggle with feelings of loneliness so intense that there were days she rarely moved out of her recliner. I often felt helpless, and though she did not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, my prior work has shown me just how important it is that organizations like SAGE continue their work to help seniors battle the feelings of isolation and loneliness. I hope that working with such an incredible team at SAGE will allow me a chance to feel helpful going forward.
What are you most looking forward to, as you become adjusted to your new roles?
Mehrer: I am looking forward to getting to know more community members. Being LGBT can be a lonely experience at times, and I thrive on community. LGBT older adults have such wide and varied experiences and perspectives, and I am looking forward to getting to know so many new people and to working with them to help our community as a whole.
Fitzgerald: Honestly, hoping to make a difference within the community. I know that it is a cliche, however, previously I have worked as a Director of Operations and Interim Executive Director and am hopeful that these experiences will provide me with a unique view into the organization, allowing me to become a valuable part of the team.
Additionally, I am excited to learn more about the programs offered at SAGE so that while I am out and about in the community, I am able to be an ambassador on behalf of the organization.
Tell us a little about yourself on a personal level.
Mehrer: I was born and mostly raised in Michigan. I am polyamorous — I am engaged and have two other wonderful partners, all three of whom have been tremendously supportive. I am non-binary and bisexual, but I generally identify as queer as I feel it more accurately encompasses both my gender identity and my sexual orientation.
I also identify as a nerd, which means you can usually find me, in my spare time, playing video games, reading or playing role-playing games. My main personal passion project is hosting what I call “Bad Art Parties,” which are parties aimed at putting the fun back in creating art, rather than worrying about the outcomes.
Fitzgerald: I am thrilled to be back in Michigan surrounded by family, both biological and chosen. Moving away for a few years was a wonderful opportunity to learn about myself as a husband, son and father but was way too far away from those that I love.
I have been with my husband Jeremy for almost 17 years and of those years we will be eight years married come December 2022. He is from Hong Kong, and I am from Michigan, and we met in Ferndale back in 2004 at a nightclub out on the dance floor. We have one fur baby together, a dog named Tyler, that we rescued about four-and-a-half years ago. I am the proud father of three grown children and one granddaughter, all resulting from my first marriage. I feel so fortunate that we all live within 30 minutes of each other, including my ex-wife, who has been a friend for more than 40 years.