SAGE Metro Detroit separates from national organization

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Detroit Metro SAGE, Detroit’s only nonprofit dedicated to serving and advocating for LGBTQ+ seniors, recently announced that it will no longer be connected to the national organization SAGE. This comes as SAGE National is moving away from the affiliate model and announcing that only affiliates in New York and South Florida will exist after this year.

“It’s really important that the message be clear that this is not a decision we made,” said Angela Gabridge, executive director of SAGE Metro Detroit for nearly a year now. “The new general manager didn’t come and say, ‘We’re parting ways with the national. It was largely a decision made at the national level, and we were certainly surprised by the decision.

Gabridge said SAGE Metro Detroit is currently trying to better understand what the split will mean for the agency. They have until the end of this year to rebrand and come up with a new name and logo.

Angela Gabridge, Executive Director, SAGE Metro Detroit. Photo: Detroit Metro SAGE

“We plan to undertake this from July to October with the hope of being able to announce in November,” she said.

SAGE Metro Detroit has, since its inception in 2015, been “one of the largest, if not the largest, affiliates in the country,” according to Gabridge, who pointed out that the agency has its own 501c3 status, its own advisory board. administration and its own funding. , unlike most SAGE affiliates.

“There is no revenue sharing,” she said. “So it’s not like any of our funding came from the national organization.”

But the fact that SAGE Metro Detroit has grown so big makes it “a little bit more of a deal for us locally,” Gabridge said. “But as we shared this information with local partners, it generated a lot of enthusiasm. They feel this opens up opportunities in terms of partnering with them, not just in Southeast Michigan, but in our work across the state. »

The first official employee of SAGE Metro Detroit

A new change at the agency concerns its employment structure. Previously, not all employees were technically employees, but rather independent contractors.

“I’m the first official employee,” Gabridge explained. “The organization has never had employees. Everyone, including my predecessor, was an independent contractor. Now we are trying to build a more sustainable model and we are also implementing it. »

Gabridge said SAGE Metro Detroit is now recruiting several independent contractors as official employees, including training and education manager Judy Lewis. She said she was thrilled that SAGE Metro Detroit is moving away from SAGE National and the rebranding.

“I’m so excited,” she said. “We are the only organization of our kind in Michigan. We are Michigan-centric. Our stats and all of our information is really focused on our people in Michigan. So, to me, it’s just lovely.

Lewis pointed out that SAGE Metro Detroit has really done work across the state, including cities like Grand Rapids, Benton Harbor and even the Upper Peninsula. “We’ve built relationships with people all over the state. … We are truly positioned to become a fully state-recognized organization.

In 2010, Lewis helped found the LGBT Older Adult Coalition with Kat LaTosch and Jay Kaplan. Due to the success of the initiative, the group was invited to become a SAGE Affiliate in 2015. Now, 75, Lewis said she spoke to her accountant who told her the move from independent contractor to a regular paid employee would not affect it much. But her daughter disagreed.

“She said, ‘Mom, you started this organization. Would you like to be on the outside as an entrepreneur, or do you want to be an employee of the organization you helped start? »

Lewis chose the latter.

New trans focus

Another change to the agency will be its focus on trans and non-binary issues. Last year, SAGE Metro Detroit received a Michigan Health Endowment Fund planning grant for a transgender aging project. They are currently developing a “Loving Your Trans Body” series as well as educational and social programs designed to improve the emotional, physical and financial health of trans and non-binary seniors.

The program will also help trans and non-binary seniors seek affirmative healthcare and deal with issues such as insurance denials. The initial pilot phase will end this summer, but the agency is trying to secure continued funding for the program.

“We think it’s really important to improve and expand our work with trans and non-binary communities in general,” said Gabridge, who added that she plans to hire someone soon to focus on trans and non-binary issues. For now, current staff are implementing the project through its planning phase.

The agency is also looking to offer more in terms of direct services to all of its clients, whether it is social programs, food programs or their friendly call program.

“As we look to the future of the organization ourselves, we are also looking to support existing vendors,” said Gabridge. “We are looking to deepen some of the partnerships that we currently have. … It is important for us to ensure that we are useful to the community.

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