Between Ourselves: Meet Affirmations Development Director Angela Gabridge

By Crystal A. Proxmire

After 13 years working in the nonprofit world, 36-year-old Angela Gabridge has landed her dream job as the Director of Development for Affirmations Community Center. She joins at a time when ally involvement is becoming a much more visible and vital part of the fight for LGBT equality.

1 Although you are straight, LGBT equality is an important issue to you. Was there anything in your life that made you take this issue to heart?

I don't know if there is any one defining moment. My parents had LGBT friends growing up, and I was raised to believe people are people and we should all be treated the same. Anything that deviates from that feels unjust and patently un-right. I am just not wired to hate anyone, and I can't understand why anyone would think that way. Several years after it came out, I finally watched [the movie] Milk and at the end I couldn't believe it, that we are still there. This was activism that was going on 40 years ago. There has been some progress that's been made, but in a lot of ways we're still there. And that is not right.

I've been a donor at Affirmations for at least seven years. This is a place that is near and dear to my heart. My goal was always to be more involved. I had a lot of LGBT friends and donated, but what could I do to support the community? As a fundraiser I knew donating was one way to support Affirmations. But now, (in my job) my thought is how can we get more allies involved.

It's my number one issue. We all have something that makes our heart beat faster and encourages us to push for change. I am incredibly excited to be part of this team.

2 As Director of Development, what do you do?

Director of Development means that I am charged with all the fundraising for the organization, overseeing events, grants, individual giving, connecting donors with the mission and opportunities to get involved, seeking corporate sponsorships and government grants.

3 Any specific fundraising plans?

For 2014 the biggest focus is an ally campaign, getting the message out to individuals outside the LGBT community, helping people understand there is a way they can make a difference. Donors can get complacent because they see a state has marriage equality, and another state has it (now 17 states have it). But that's not the end of the work. There is so much more to be done. We want to get allies involved in the community and reaching across the aisle. Telling stories is a big part of it as well. It's easy to speak in terms of 'we started this program,' or 'we have this challenge,' but we have to tell the stories of people who use the center. We have to show people the human impact it has.

The Shore-to-Shore Equality Ride is another big plan. We're doing it during Pride month in June, and hoping to get allies involved in that as well. We're raising money, but we're also messaging things outside where we have gone. We're going into communities, talking to bike shops and other small business owners and shoring up those outreach efforts. We'll work with corporate contacts to get teams together. Things like that are important. It's important to see there is a critical mass that is willing to stand up and say it's okay to support equality.

And then there's the Spring Bash and Fall Bash. We're really excited about Spring Bash this year. Brad Bell and Christopher Keys are chairing the event at the new Cobo Center. The ballrooms are really impressive - the ceiling heights and the windows are really sharp. It's our 25th year so we want to make it the biggest event yet. And we're encouraging people to bring their allies. We've done three-tier ticket pricing. And what's also different - it's an open bar. That's something important and fun to getting people there. We're also working on a more exciting presentation, really bringing alive the history of affirmations in the last 25 years for attendees.

4 What background do you bring to the development position?

I grew up in Dearborn and went to Crestwood High. I started at U of M in an administrative and event planning role. I did a lot of coordination of conferences. I knew what I really wanted to do was work with a nonprofit. I took a job with Detroit Central City Community Mental Health in a support role. They helped people transitioning from incarceration to a more stable situation. Fromm there I moved over to the development department, working with donors and creating their first volunteer program. I was looking for more of a challenge so I went to Accounting Aid Society, where they do tax returns for low income people. I learned a tremendous amount from the director of development there.

Then I went to Services for Older Citizens in Grosse Point, which is a community center, focused on seniors. It is the same kind of thing as Affirmations, with social and recreation programing and social services. I loved that job and was very happy to be where I was, but then I saw the posting of the position here. Within 10 minutes of Affirmations sending out the email [about the job] I had at least ten people send it to me saying 'you're going to apply right?

I like being a fundraiser, it's a lot of work, and not a lot of people like to do it, but I knew this is where I wanted to be.

5 Besides Affirmations, what are you passionate about?

My family. I am married. There is my husband Jason, and I have two little girls Sophia and Veronica. We lived in downtown Detroit for first half of our marriage, then moved to Grosse Pointe Woods to send the girls to school, but our hearts are in the city.

And I really love pugs! I'm a volunteer for Michigan Pug Rescue, and I volunteer there for fundraising. I've got two pugs Sweeney Gene and Trixie Lu, and one beagle mix named Harwell James. And I love to run.

To learn more about Affirmations go to http://www.goaffirmations.org.


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