Wanda Sykes to Headline Benefit for Homeless LGBTQ Youth
Highland Park, Mich. - The Ruth Ellis Center will host its second annual benefit Voices with special celebrity guest Wanda Sykes on September 20. Voices, to be held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), celebrates the resilience of the more than 4,000 homeless, run away and at-risk lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth the Ruth Ellis Center serves annually.
"My first visit to the Ruth Ellis Center was one year ago, when I spent time with the youth at the Second Stories Drop-in Center," said Wanda Sykes. "I was moved by the youth's stories and strength, and impressed by the work the Ruth Ellis Center conducts to help improve their outcomes. It's exciting to have another opportunity to visit Detroit, spend time with the youth and continue supporting the Ruth Ellis Center at Voices."
In addition to the chance to meet Wanda Sykes and hear her remarks, benefit goers can view a silent auction of compelling photographs taken by youth from the Ruth Ellis Center. The youth trained with MOCAD staff to create 20 photographs that depict their perspectives on homelessness, sexual identity and love.
The event will also include two major announcements; the results of the Center’s End the Chill awareness and fundraising campaign and this year’s recipients of the Ruth’s Angels Award. End the Chill launched on August 1 and is using images of the horrific conditions in which LGBTQ homeless youth live to raise awareness of their great need for more safe space. The goal is to raise $20,000 from donations at www.indiegogo.com/endthechill, and the money will go towards keeping the Center’s Second Stories Drop-In Center open additional days as a warming station during the winter.
The Ruth’s Angels Award began last year and is given to individuals in the community who demonstrate dedication to helping provide safe space for homeless LGBTQ youth. Two of the Ruth Ellis Center’s founding and current board members, Dr. Kofi Adoma (Amorie Robinson) and John Allen, will receive this year’s Ruth’s Angels Award. Adoma, a clinical psychologist at Michigan Third Circuit Court Family Division Clinic for Child Study, and Allen, a partner at Allen Brothers PLLC Law Firm, were instrumental in the formation of the Ruth Ellis Center in 1998.
Wanda Sykes will officially announce the End the Chill results and award Adoma and Allen.
"This year’s Voices is a wonderful representation of what drives the Ruth Ellis Center and the work we do to provide safe space and enrichment for our youth," said Laura Hughes, Ruth Ellis Center executive director. "It’s a celebration of our youth’s self expression, our organization’s collaborations, our strong community supporters and the national attention that the Center has garnered this year. This will be a very memorable event for our guests, but more importantly for our young people."
Tickets to Voices are $350 ($400 at the door) for the VIP reception, starting at 5:30 p.m., and include a meet and greet with Wanda Sykes and tours of MOCAD’s current exhibitions; $175 ($225 at the door) and $75 for guests 30 and under for the reception, beginning at 6:30 p.m., with a presentation with remarks from Wanda Sykes. The evening also features a delicious strolling supper, beer and wine, and beats provided by DJ Andre Royster. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.ruthelliscenter.org, calling 313-252-1950 or sending a check to 77 Victor Street, Highland Park, MI 48203.
If Ruth Ellis Center supporters and Wanda Sykes fans from around the world cannot attend Voices, they still have the ability to see the program. Before the event, supporters can visit www.ruthelliscenter.org/voices, and make a donation to the Ruth Ellis Center, which gives them access to a live video stream of the event.
Honorary chairs for the Voices are Ishmael Ahmed; Toby Barlow, Team Detroit chief creative officer; Yvette Bing, first lady of Detroit; Phillip Cooley, Slows Bar BQ owner; Linda Forte, Comerica Bank senior vice president and chief diversity officer; Howard Israel and Henry Grix; Rebecca Mazzei, MOCAD Deputy Director; Cynthia J. Pasky, Strategic Staffing Solutions president and CEO; Michael Perkins, Corporate Sales Manager, WDET-FM; Charles Pugh, Detroit City Council president; Jerome Raska and Robbin Yelverton, Blumz by JR Designs owners; Nancy M. Schlichting, Henry Ford Health System CEO; Dr. Greg Stone and Mark Rubenstein; and, Iris A. Taylor, Ph. D., R. N., Detroit Receiving Hospital executive vice president and president.
Voices is supported by Allen Brothers PLLC, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Comerica Bank, Compuware, Ernst & Young, Flagstar Bank, Henry Ford Health Systems, Quicken Loans, St. John Health System, Strategic Staffing Solutions and Team Detroit; exclusive automotive partner Cadillac; and, exclusive hotel sponsor Westin Book Cadillac.
Ruth Ellis Center is solely dedicated to serving homeless, at-risk and runaway youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bi-attractional, transgender or questioning. The Center’s mission is to provide short-term and long-term safe space through:
Ruth’s House - a full-time residential program that is a State of Michigan licensed Child Caring Institution.
Second Stories Drop-in Center - A facility that offers youth resources such as full meals, gender identity support groups, on-site mental health therapy, laundry facility and clothing, a cyber center, and recreation.
Street Outreach Program - a peer-driven model that uses harm reduction and community involvement to authentically connect with LGBTQ youth who are experiencing homelessness
For more information, visit Ruth Ellis Center’s Web site or its Facebook page.