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April 10, 2015

Honoring Our Volunteers: Jeff and Tess

Did you know that April is National Volunteer Month? In honor of our extraordinary volunteers, SAGE will be asking a few of them some questions about what they do for our members!  Visit the blog on Fridays throughout the month of April for their stories.

Corporate Volunteer: Jeff Kern from BlackRock


Intranet Photo_Jeffrey KernWhen did you volunteer at SAGE? What did you do?
I have volunteered quite a few times at SAGE. Last year, I helped serve a holiday meal on Christmas. The LGBT Employee Network at BlackRock  has also partnered with SAGE to speak about retirement readiness for LGBT adults. This past fall, one of our HR professionals and I hosted a "Turbocharging your Career Search" -- a chat about job searching and how to better position yourself for success for the SAGEWorks program.

Do you volunteer often?
I try to volunteer as much as I can. I love getting involved in the community. When I was in college, several organizations made a huge impact on me. They showed me that I could be an authentic LGBT leader in business. I want to pay it forward and contribute to equality, globally, and ensure that all people are treated with dignity and respect on a very basic level. 

What is your greatest strength? How does it help you as a volunteer?
I am really organized. To make a big impact, it’s crucial to be organized. In my opinion, organized people can accomplish more.  

How does volunteering make you feel?
It all comes back around to paying it forward. I do it because it is the right thing to do and it is good for everyone. 

What was your experience like at SAGE?
The SAGE Center Midtown is incredible. Just chatting with people there, looking at the different opportunities, it’s clear how diverse and engaged the LGBT community is. SAGE does a great job of facilitating the connections, resources and support needed for the community to thrive.

Would you come back to volunteer?
I definitely plan on it!

To learn more about our Corporate Volunteer program, please contact Elise Colomer at ecolomer@sageusa.org


Friendly Visitor Volunteer: Tess Thompson

Teresa ThompsonHow long have you volunteered at SAGE?
I connected with SAGE in the Fall of 2011. After meeting with the Friendly Visiting staff and going through some basic orientation, I met my friend-at-home for the first time in December of that year. I'm amazed to realize it has been almost three and a half years - on one hand, our friendship has developed so much during this time, but on the other hand I haven't noticed the months passing by so fast!

What do you do as a Friendly Visitor?
Every Tuesday evening I go over to my friend-at-home's apartment, and we chat, hang out, feed his cat, maybe watch a show on Netflix. Pretty much we spend a couple of hours doing what I would normally do when visiting any friend's home. My friend-at-home is housebound and therefore somewhat isolated, so I provide companionship and the knowledge that there is someone there who cares. We also chat via email a couple of times a month, sometimes he will send me a recipe or I will send him the trailer for a movie I think he would like.

What is your greatest strength? How does it help you as a volunteer?
I think my greatest strength as a volunteer is my ability to listen to people and see things from their perspective. In all friendships sometimes people disagree or don't see things eye to eye, but if you can understand where each other is coming from then you can have compassion for each other instead of conflict.

How does being a Friendly Visitor make you feel?
I feel lucky to be a Friendly Visitor because I have expanded my community to include my wonderful friend-at-home. My life is enriched by his companionship, wisdom, and the laughter we share together.

What has been your best experience so far?
I'm not sure I can pick just one! It's special to celebrate with my friend-at-home near the holidays. Spending that time together always reminds me that community and caring for each other is what's really valuable in life.

Would you recommend others being a Friendly Volunteer? Why or why not?
I would definitely recommend considering becoming a Friendly Volunteer. We all need to connect more with each other - this experience is so meaningful not only for the friend-at-home, but also for the volunteer.

Anything else you would like to share?
Thanks SAGE, and keep up the good work!

To learn more about our Friendly Visitor program, please contact Matilde Busana at mbusana@sageusa.org

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