A Letter Of Hope And Gratitude

By Gerald Peterson

There is something special about this time of year. For many, it offers an opportunity to reflect on the blessings in their lives. Surprise, love, family, friends, laughter and joy most often make the list. And why shouldn't they be first and foremost on our list of all things we are grateful for? It is the impact of the people around us that warm our heart, strengthen our spirit and star in our most cherished memories.

Early one morning, before anyone else arrived, I wandered through the halls of Ruth Ellis Center admiring the work of the LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth we serve displayed on every wall. I stopped at the family tree mural, designed by several of the youth and painted by volunteers. Each branch holds small leaves with the names of youth, staff, volunteers and friends of the Center. As I scanned each leaf, I realized this year's list of blessings was going to be much longer. I say this because in that moment, it dawned on me that this tree didn't just represent a caring, supportive and courageous community in which I'm thrilled to share, it also represents the growth of Ruth Ellis Center as an organization, and the impact it has had on so many young lives.

Each leaf on this tree means a young person in our community found a safe place to eat a hot meal, take a shower, find clean clothes, share in the fellowship of peers, and gain access to shelter and mental health services. On a larger scale, this tree represents more than 50 percent of the homeless LGBTQ youth in Metro Detroit, and its empty branches remind us of those we have yet to reach.

Our accomplishments this year are in no way only ours to share. The community both here in Michigan and around the country has supported our efforts through financial contributions, volunteer opportunities and donations of clothing and food. On behalf of the board of directors, staff and youth at Ruth Ellis Center, thank you. We could not do the work we do without your assistance.

Though our commitment is unwavering and our presence has never been more valued, Ruth Ellis Center, like many other grassroots organizations, must contend with budget cuts. This past year we lost significant federal funding, impacting not only our organization, but more importantly, homeless LGBTQ youth in our community. While we are optimistic of Ruth Ellis Center's future, it is nevertheless a critical time for us. As the saying goes, "It takes a village to raise a child." We certainly agree, but instead of a village, let's go with our friends, allies and advocates.

As we move into this New Year, I encourage you to consider the impact Ruth Ellis Center has had in our community. How proud you are to know that right here in Michigan we have a nationally recognized organization dedicated to protecting runaway and homeless LGBTQ youth. Help us move forward into 2014 stronger than ever before. Recurring monthly donations determine the sustainability of our organization, and directly impact the programs and services available to our youth. Become a member of our family today, become a Ruth's Angel and in doing so, you will literally save lives. Donations, both one time and monthly recurring, may be submitted through our website at http://www.ruthelliscenter.org or by mail at 77 Victor St. Highland Park, MI.

Gerald W. Peterson is the executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center

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