Ahee Jewel Award

Henry Grix and Howard Israel

Edmund T. Ahee Jewel Award for Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser

Nominated by ACLU of Michigan

Henry Grix and Howard Israel’s support and advocacy for LGBT rights has been unwavering, both in their own giving and in encouraging others to support key LGBT nonprofit organizations.  However, it is their commitment to human rights that makes them extraordinary. From racial equity and transformative justice initiatives, to supporting asylum seekers and refugees, Howard and Henry have had a significant and positive impact on organizations locally and nationwide. Here are just some of the nonprofits they have had a significant impact on:

  • The ACLU of Michigan is one of only a handful of American Civil Liberties Union chapters nationwide that has developed and staffed its own state LGBT project.  The LGBT Project drew Howard and Henry to the ACLU, but the ACLU’S efforts to secure legal and social equality for all Michigan’s citizens has drawn their continuing support.  Howard and Henry believe all Michigan’s citizens should have ready access to the vote, and they supported the coalition, of which the ACLU of Michigan was a leading part, to advance Michigan’s new law authorizing absentee voting for all.  Since Michigan voters approved the new law, the ACLU of Michigan has educated the public about the law and assisted local clerks in implementing the law.  
  • Founded in 1994, LGBT Detroit is an African American-led agency committed to mentorship and advancing Detroit’s LGBT+ culture. LGBT Detroit provides education on sexual orientation and gender identity, assists victims of crime in securing services, and promotes the emotional and physical wellbeing of its constituency, LGBT+ people of color. In the mid-2000s, Howard volunteered his time and effort – via a grant from the HOPE Fund at the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan – to assist people of color LGBT+ organizations in Detroit, including LGBT Detroit, in expanding capacity and developing organizational infrastructure. Henry and Howard’s advocacy on behalf of LGBT Detroit, increased the visibility of its capital campaign, #SafeBraveSpace, and has improved LGBT Detroit’s ability to reach young gay and bi African American men impacted by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS infection in Michigan. By providing mentorship, and financial support, Howard and Henry are enthusiastic participants in helping LGBT Detroit serve an underserved population.
  • Ruth Ellis Center (REC) serves the needs of LGBTQ+ youth, with an emphasis on LGBTQ+ youth of color in the child welfare system or who are experiencing homelessness.  These youth face particular barriers to their physical and mental health and wellness. What began as a 500-square-foot drop-in center has evolved into a multifaceted organization, operating four facilities within Highland Park and Detroit, providing outreach and safety net services, integrated primary and behavioral healthcare services and case management, skill building workshops, HIV prevention programs, and family preservation programming. REC also operates Ruth’s House, the Midwest’s only state licensed and contracted residential foster care program specifically for LGBTQ youth.  Howard and Henry have helped shape REC’s continued growth both through their own philanthropy and by providing thoughtful and constructive guidance on program and fundraising initiatives, connecting the Center to new supporters, and sharing important resources to assist in their efforts.
  • In 1994, concerned civic leaders collaborated with the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to establish the HOPE (Helping Others through Partnership and Education) Fund to strengthen organizations and projects that support the LGBTQ+ community through targeted grantmaking, projects, and technical assistance. Since the inception of the HOPE Fund, Howard and Henry have devoted countless hours to furthering the cause. They also helped identify who was being left out and built plans on how to include them in the effort. Their involvement has helped create a perpetual endowment to meet the current and future needs of the LGBT+ community. 
  • Outlaws is the University of Michigan Law School’s LGBTQ+ affinity group. Founded in 1981, U-M Outlaws is a diverse coalition of law students, and is among the largest such affinity groups at any law school.  Both Henry and Howard were educated at the University of Michigan, and Henry attended the law school.  At an Outlaws reception, Henry and Howard learned the Outlaws were the only law school affinity group without alumni support, and, together with students and the law schools development staff, provided seed money for the Spectrum Fund to support first and second year students who accept unpaid summer internships with nonprofit legal organization that advance LGBTQ+ rights.
  • Since 1996, the Gill Foundation has fostered a donor network known as OutGiving, whose generosity has made a significant impact on the march toward full legal and social equality. The Foundation created the network to encourage collaboration among LGBT philanthropists, allowing them to connect, learn, and exchange ideas on ways to advance equality through strategic and intentional philanthropy. Howard and Henry joined OutGiving in 2016 and convened their peers in Michigan to learn about Gill Foundation’s work and identify ways to collaborate effectively.

While Howard and Henry are generous philanthropists, it is their generosity of spirit that stands out most. For more than 30 years, they have generously given their time, treasure, and expertise. In fact, nearly every single LGBTQ and civil rights organization in Michigan, and others across the country, count them among their most trusted advisers, biggest advocates, and most longstanding and generous supporters. Long considered a cornerstone of the community, this couple is invested in movement building, which they have done through personal philanthropy and exhaustive efforts to build the supporter rolls for causes they care about by hosting dinners, house parties, and letter-writing campaigns.

The gift of time and attention these men have dedicated to causes they care deeply about is inspiring. They go above and beyond to ensure people feel deeply heard and profoundly supported.  They do everything within their power to fill a room, finish out a campaign, or get the momentum going. About fifteen years ago, Howard began an email list around his volunteer political advocacy work. In the beginning, the list was used to focus on bringing marriage equality to Michigan and now continues as a progressive educational platform. Each week, Howard’s emails share news events, offer opportunities to invest in the movement, provide much-needed humor, and most importantly, serve to remind us that we are all one family, one community, pushing together for equality.