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April 23, 2013

National Volunteer Week: Volunteerism Is at the Heart of SAGE

Did you know? April 21-27, 2013 is National Volunteer Week!

Sage Friendly Visiting_20121021_0087
Lucio (in yellow) and Jeannette (to Lucio's right) have been matched for 1.5 years and are very attached to each other.

According to the week’s official sponsor, National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.

At SAGE, our volunteers embody the spirit of service. They are an important part of our family, spending their available time with us to lead programming at The SAGE Center, offer mature job-seekers tips on finding work through SAGEWorks or work with LGBT elders in their own communities across the nation through SAGENet. Without these valuable members of our community, we could not do all that we do.

In fact, one of our oldest and most recognizable volunteer programs, the Friendly Visiting program, is led by an outstanding SAGE volunteer, Matilde Busana. The SAGE Friendly Visitor program, founded in 1979 and the first of its kind in the U.S., matches volunteers from the community with LGBT older adults ("friends at home") to form relationships that are mutually rewarding and build community.

Matilde was born in Italy and grew up in Sydney, Australia. She moved to the United States in 1999 when her partner, Bronwyn, received an intercompany transfer to the U.S. (Matilde and Bronwyn have been together for 24 years and were recently married last October in New York City.)  In Australia, Matilde ran a program similar to Friendly Visitors that was very successful. After learning about SAGE’s program from her friend and neighbor, who just so happened to be a Friendly Visitor himself, she was eager to get involved.

Matilde set up a meeting with SAGE’s Director of Social Services Suzy Ritholz. Suzy knew immediately that she would be a great fit with SAGE and asked Matilde to coordinate the Friendly Visitor program—a role Matilde quickly took on.

In her role, Matilde carefully screens and fully trains all Friendly Visitor volunteers. Friendly Visitors make a commitment to at least one year of involvement with a Friend at Home. They visit once a week for an hour or two and make calls between visits to check in. They also attend supportive and educational meetings every other month, which are led by Matilde and Suzy.

For many friends at home, the Friendly Visitor is their only in-person contact and opportunity for socialization for the week. Without this relationship, many LBGT elders might fall deeper into isolation. It is for this reason, and the Friendly Visitors’ generous donation of time, that Matilde takes every opportunity that she can to share her gratitude with them. She believes that their volunteer efforts make a huge difference in the lives of their friend at home.

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we share Matilde’s gratitude toward the many Friendly Visitor volunteers who graciously donate their time to ensure LGBT elders at home are able to live full and active lives. We also thank Matilde for her dedicated service and commitment to the Friendly Visitors program, which has seen enormous success under her leadership.

If you are interested in learning more about the Friendly Visitor program, including starting a Friendly Visiting program at your agency, please contact Suzy Ritholz at 212-741-2247 or sritholz@sageusa.org.

If you would like to volunteer as a SAGE Friendly Visitor, please print and fill out this form and return it to Suzy Ritholz at SAGE, 305 Seventh Ave., 15th floor, New York, NY 10001, or sritholz@sageusa.org.

Click here to learn about other volunteer opportunities with SAGE.


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