HOPE Fund Challenge awards $60,000

Three local LGBT non-profits reach goals for matching grants

by Jessica Carreras

Time has run out on the HOPE Fund Challenge, which offered a matching grant to three LGBT non-profit organizations in Michigan. And with days to spare for the Oct. 31 goal, all three groups - the Triangle Foundation, Affirmations and the Ruth Ellis Center - more than met their goals.

The HOPE Fund, part of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, usually awards funds to specific programs within LGBT organizations. However, in this case, they promised funds at a 1:1 match, meaning every dollar raised by the organizations would be matched up to the specified amount. Affirmations was offered up to $25,000; the Triangle Foundation could gain up to $20,000; the Ruth Ellis Center was offered up to $15,000.

With the total numbers in, each organization will be receiving their full part of the $60,000.

The Highland Park-based Ruth Ellis Center, which offers both a drop-in center and residential housing for LGBT youth in need, raised $35,507 from June 4 to Oct. 30 - the time limit offered by CFSEM. Celebrating their 10th anniversary and the induction of Ruth Ellis into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame, REC used two October events surrounding the milestones to bring in funds.

"We have not had a strong tradition of individual donors, so this came at a critical time as we are diversify our funding base," development director Jack Van Hecke said of the challenge. "We have been able to use the challenge, Ruth's induction ... and our 10th anniversary as a catalyst to the lay the foundation for our end of the year appeal."

Van Hecke shared that the money would go toward general operating costs for the organization's drop-in center, because "we have relatively secure funding for our residential program, but we don't have a designated, secure funding stream for the drop-in center."

In the case of the Triangle Foundation, which works out of Detroit for LGBT equality and legislation in Michigan, over $26,000 was raised in the HOPE Fund Challenge, which guaranteed them all of their matching grant.

"Even in these trying economic times, our donors decided the mission of Triangle Foundation is important to our community in Michigan," said Executive Director Alicia Skillman. "We're grateful and humbled by their generosity and pledge to continue our work to secure equality throughout our state."

Affirmations, the Ferndale-based LGBT community center, met their $25,000 challenge three weeks before the Halloween deadline and celebrated monetary gifts from 149 new donors.

"We're excited to have met this challenge, as the $25,000 match from the HOPE Fund came at a much-needed time," said CEO Leslie Thompson. "Affirmations has faced several difficult financial situations throughout the course of the year. We are certainly appreciative to the HOPE Fund for offering us the leverage to meet this goal, especially as we approach the end of the year."

Throughout the months of June, July, August and September, Affirmations held a series of cocktail hour events at BlackFinn Saloon in Royal Oak, as well as an online and direct mail fundraising campaign.

To learn more about the Ruth Ellis Center, visit http://www.ruthelliscenter.com. To learn more about the Triangle Foundation, visit http://www.tri.org. To learn more about Affirmations, visit http://www.goaffirmations.org.

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