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April 17, 2015

Honoring Our Volunteers: Kyla Knight

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.

Ginger SprinklersThis week’s highlight features a special interview with Kyla Knight from New York Life Insurance. Kyla has been volunteering with SAGE since 2013 and comes from our corporate volunteer program.

Hi Kyla. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your volunteering at SAGE!
It’s my pleasure! Firstly, Let me just say, I love SAGE.  I think it is so important to have our community age with equitable resources, community and dignity.  SAGE is taking tangible strides to making that a reality and whatever small part I can make to support SAGE’s staff is the least I can do. 

We are so glad to hear that! When did you first volunteer at SAGE? 
I went to my first volunteer information session in July of 2013.  At first, I was paired up with the HR Director two times a week from 9-11 am for several months to help out with some extra work. I then wanted to help out with actual events and constituents and in 2014, I was able to organize two events for SAGE through the help of many people kind people and organizations. 

What events were those?
The first event was with DL21C on expanding LGBT services in the outer boroughs.  Councilmember Ritchie Torres (D-Central Bronx) and Deputy Executive Director & CFO of SAGE, Tracy Welsh, spoke about the importance of LGBT senior services and how the expanded funds to SAGE from the City Council will be used. I am so proud that there are now SAGE Centers in the Bronx, Harlem, Staten Island and Brooklyn!

The second event was facilitated through the extreme generosity of my co-workers at New York Life Insurance.  Individual employees signed up to donate over 200 gifts and we hosted a Holiday Gift Drive Dinner at SAGE Center Midtown.  We ended the night with singing a karaoke song… Just Like a Prayer and everyone had a great time.

That sounds amazing! And you sound busy! Are you able to volunteer often?
I wish I could volunteer more, but I normally organize an event or two a month.

What is your greatest strength? How does it help you as a volunteer?
My greatest strength is that I’m a very stubborn person! This dedication to my passions helps me show up and at the end of the day, showing up is all that really matters!  We don’t have to be perfect, or the best—but everyone has tremendous value to bring to the table.  Even if I don’t know how to do one particular task, I am certain someone I know does!  I have met so many new friends and have been taught many new skill sets along the way through work and volunteering. For that, I am very grateful. My hope is to try to highlight the work of amazing people who bring about positivity and courage for more of our community to start to feel included. 

How does volunteering make you feel?
Volunteering makes me feel at home.  Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my mom in a hair salon in Lavender Heights (Sacramento’s ‘gayborhood’).  It was so much fun telling stories, joking around and seeing people have makeovers, looking pretty and expressing their true gender identities! This was a huge influence in shaping my dream to move to New York as a queer activist, because I saw the importance of organizing events, rallies and showing up for our community. 

What have your experiences been like at SAGE?
SAGE gives me “the why.”  SAGE gives me a tangible vehicle in which to focus my passion for our community.  I am so grateful to stand upon the shoulders and the sacrifice and work of many LGBT+ sheros and heroes.  I am so proud of the amazing stories SAGE members have and every time I go to the SAGE Center I have had SO much fun! 

Brigadier General Tammy Smith, the first openly lesbian of the U.S. Army Reserve, said, “Never underestimate your ability to give others hope.” SAGE gives so many hope and dignity and I feel very lucky to be included.

So when is the next time you come back to volunteer?
I am very excited to volunteer Sunday April 26, 2015 for the next Women’s Spring Dance!  I am happy that a handful of coworkers agreed to help out as well!

That dance is amazing! Glad you and your coworkers are going. Is there anything else you would like to share?​
During a lazy Sunday afternoon I took my 11-year old woofderful pooch, Ginger, to the Lesbian Herstory Archives.  By accident, I found SAGE’s box upstairs and pored over various documents.  I completely lost track of time nerding out on organizational charts and event flyers!  SAGE took me in under her wing and helped me to verify many of my interests, strengths and passions.  I am now enrolled go to Baruch College for my MBA in Organizational Design and HR Management in the fall semester.  I hope to help the effort to reach economic parity within the queer community regardless of gender identity, race, class or sexual orientation.   

Volunteering with SAGE has given me back so much more than I can really explain and I know that many people I’ve met along the way feel the same about their experience with SAGE.  The fun part is that every volunteers experience is different and this solidarity helps to make SAGE so special. THANK YOU SAGE!

Wow. Thank you Kyla! It was so much fun to interview you and I look forward to hearing about your future volunteer activities at SAGE.
No, thank you!

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