Angela Gabridge joined SAGE Metro Detroit nearly two years ago as its first full-time executive director.
Since then, the organization, which serves older members of the LGBTQ+ community, has changed its name, added another seven full-time staff and grown its budget by 100%.
MiGen is its own organization now, no longer an affiliate of SAGE. But its mission hasn’t changed: it serves the needs of older members of the LGBTQ+ community and trains and educates external organizations – including the state’s 16 Area Agencies on Aging — to do the same.
“Part of the crux of everything we do is making sure that wherever folks are interacting, they’re likelier to have an affirming experience,” says Gabridge. “If they’re going to their local senior community center, we want to make sure those folks know how to care for our folks.”
With Pride Month being celebrated statewide through June, it’s a good time to celebrate the successes of the organization.
MiGen offers direct services to about 1,200 older adults in metro Detroit with in-person and virtual social programming and monthly food box delivery in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties. A United Way of Southeast Michigan grant enables MiGen to deliver food via Door Dash, as well. The organization also connects people with resources like transportation and helps with various applications through its Community Navigator program.
“The Community Navigator will work with them directly. It’s high touch. We also do follow-up to make sure the loop gets closed,” Gabridge says.
Other programs include vaccine clinics and accompaniment to medical appointments.
MiGen offers support groups, help with technology, a Friendly Caller program and more.
The LGBTQ+ community, in general, faces across-the-board discrimination. Older members of the community face even greater obstacles, among them poverty caused by a lifelong disenfranchisement, harassment, underemployment, inability to access partner benefits until recently and lower earnings for female-led households, says Gabridge.
The COVID-19 pandemic “retraumatized” a community that was already decimated by HIV and AIDS in the ’80s. People of color lost close relatives in greater numbers than outside the LGBTQ+ community, she says.
Gabridge says demand for food had begun to stabilize, but with the rollback of SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) emergency food benefits – which expanded during the pandemic — MiGen has seen a 30% increase in the number of people who need food assistance.
Still, because of the work of MiGen, Affirmations, and other organizations that don’t traditionally serve the LGBTQ+ community, there is increased recognition of the needs of older adults in that community.
“What’s interesting is we’re seeing a lot of increased interest, support, participation from organizations and folks within the aging services landscape, but not necessarily in the LGBTQ community. Oftentimes, older adults get left behind in the conversation. We’re leaning on that during this Pride season, making sure older adults are being recognized for their contributions and are not getting left behind by their own community,” Gabridge says.
For Pride Month, MiGen has partnered with the Hannan Center and the Detroit Association of Black Storytellers for an Intergenerational Storytelling Project from 6 pm-8 pm June 9 at the Hannan Center, 4750 Woodward in Detroit. The event will train members of the LGBTQ+ community in storytelling and connecting intergenerationally.
For more information about MiGen, go to migenconnect.org or call 313-241-8994.
Content provided by the Area Agency on Aging 1-B