By Robert Levine
SAGE (Senior Action in a Gay Environment) celebrates its 40th anniversary as an LGBT advocacy and services group for LGBT elders. Saturday, June 2, was the 26th annual fundraiser held for them in Fire Island Pines.
Founded in 1978 in New York City, SAGE has grown over the last four decades into a national organization, making a tangible impact across the country. SAGE partners with policymakers, agency heads, and members of Congress to advocate for necessary policy changes to improve the quality of life for our community including housing, stability, and access to LGBT-affirming health care. Now with 28 affiliates in 20 states, more LGBT seniors are benefiting from SAGE’s work than ever before.
Concepts like LGBT affordable elder housing were first introduced by SAGE. Now such a project in Bay Shore is in the planning stages, with construction scheduled to begin later this month. A groundbreaking ceremony for 145 such units was recently held in the Ingersoll section of Brooklyn, as well as 227 such units in the Crotona section of the Bronx; both will be ready for occupancy late 2019.
The Pines has a history of supporting SAGE, beginning the ‘80s, in private homes with cocktail and dinner parties, some of which entitled you to attend a cabaret show at the Pavilion with Broadway entertainers such as Harvey Fierstein among others.
In 1993, Morty Newbourgh and Tony La Rocco took this cause in the Pines to another level. Tony, whose longtime partner at that time was the late Nick Giosha, at 86 years old, gave a birthday fundraiser party that raised considerable money. That party would change the course of fundraising not only for SAGE but for a number of prominent LBGT organizations.
The SAGE events of today that began in the Pines were held at the old Community House on the same lots where Whyte Hall is located today. After at least 15 years at the Community House, the party started to be hosted by Dr. Ed Schulhafer and Crayton Robey at their bayside home.
Co-chairs for the 2018 event were Doug Harris, Nathan Pinsley, Scott Ahlborn and Jim Streacker. The honorees were Frank Liberto, Allan Baum and Ariadne Villarreal. Past honorees have included Barbara and Marvin Gilston, Ward Auerbach, Barbara Sahlman, Walter and Karen Boss, Jon Wilner and Bob Howard, Mike and Laura Hartstein, Jim Pepper, Jack and Rita Lichtenstein, Fred Weil and Bob Adams, Frank Stark, William Haydon and Ron Perkov, Carol Weissman and Cheryl Lyons, Alan Masur, Bob Alfondre, Brett Baccus, Annie and Eddie Canreva, Linda Gottleib, Lina Bradford, Steve and Chris Nicosia, as well as this writer among others. The Pines residents remain true supporters of this event.