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Award-winning comedian Wanda Sykes will be honored in Detroit on Thursday evening at the 20th annual Ruth Ellis Center VOICES Gala. 

The Highland Park center launched in 1999 as a safe space for the city’s LGBTQ youth and operates the area’s only residential foster care program for them. The Ruth Ellis Center also helps young people in the LGBTQ community with skill-building workshops, HIV prevention programs, behavioral healthcare services, safety-net services and other resources. 

Skykes, an actor, stand-up comic and Emmy Award-winning writer, has been a supporter of the Highland Park center since 2011. She’ll be recognized for her contributions with the Ruth Ellis Legacy Award at Thursday’s VOICES Gala, 7-11 p.m. at the Historic Gem Theatre, 333 Madison in Detroit.

Sykes said she was introduced to the Ruth Ellis Center through the group’s former executive director Laura Hughes, who reached out years ago when she saw Sykes was coming to town. 

“I thought, oh this looks interesting,” Sykes told The Detroit News in 2015. “I went by and met them and met with some of the kids and immediately said ‘OK, I want to help.’ I’ve been working with them for while.” 

In a press release issued this week, the comedian said she was “truly humbled for the recognition.” 

“The Ruth Ellis Center prepares (youth) for life on their own and, in doing so, propels them to become even stronger, more resilient voices than they’ve already proven themselves to be, which is something we need now more than ever,” she said in the press release. 

Past recipients of the Ruth Ellis Legacy Award include Detroit native and actor Lily Tomlin and comedian Margaret Cho. The organization is named after Ruth Ellis, a Detroiter who came out as a lesbian in 1915 and provided support to the community throughout her life. She died in 2000 at age 101. 

The gala will also thank the Detroit City Football Club and Northern Guard Supporters with Ruth’s Angel Award for their part in raising $26,000 for the Ruth Ellis Center earlier this year. 

Tickets for Thursday night’s event are are $195-$295 and can be purchased at RuthEllisCenter.org.

mbaetens@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @melodybaetens

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