Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Jessica Carreras
ROYAL OAK – Christine Voss doesn’t have a horrific coming-out story. She was never disowned by her parents or kicked out of her home. But she feels for other LGBT youth who are going through that, and she wants to help them.
That’s why this year, starting at Thanksgiving and going though Jan. 1, the Royal Oak-based massage therapist and proprietor of With My Own Two Hands massage therapy is using all of her tips to help the Ruth Ellis Center.
“I knew I wanted to help this holiday season, but I didn’t know what,” Voss, a seasoned philanthropist in the LGBT community, explained.
“I do a lot of work with Affirmations, and I love my work there, but I wanted to choose something different. I kind of wanted to hop around a little and help a little bit in each place.”
Voss has regularly donated to and volunteered for Affirmations, including being a co-chair for last March’s Big Bash – the largest annual fundraiser for the Ferndale community center.
But her decision to switch her focus to the Ruth Ellis Center was an easy one after learning more about the specialized work the non-profit does with LGBT youth.
The center, based in Highland Park, offers support, drop-in services, HIV testing and even temporary shelter for LGBT youth – including youth who are kicked out of their homes for being gay. Opened in 1999, the center was named after Detroit-native Ruth Ellis, an out, black lesbian known for opening her home to gay youth.
Voss, who practices massage therapy with her partner out of their Royal Oak town home, said her heart went out to struggling gay youth. “I believe that people coming out face enormous challenges, and I think the hardest challenge would be your parents not accepting you,” she said. “To actually be kicked out of your home – I just couldn’t imagine that, and these kids that are going through this. It’s just devastating to me.”
And the Ruth Ellis Center is one of only several centers in the entire United States that provides shelter specifically for LGBT youth, a fact that Voss said “astonished” her. “They need more support,” she emphasized. “We should be building awareness and just getting people to know that this happens and they’re out there.”
“It’s so important for the youth to know that this is a gay-friendly place,” she added. “Somewhere where they can be themselves and they don’t have to worry about getting beaten up or what’s going to happen or what people are going to say.”
Voss has raised over $200, and plans to use the funds to purchase gifts and supplies from a list given to her by the center. More than support for her business, however, she said she hopes that spreading awareness about her effort sparks a giving nature in other small business owners and individuals. “Even small companies can make a difference,” she noted. “Doing something is the first step. It just takes one person to make a change.”
And to Voss, creating change is a way of life.