These comments are directed only to those who may be considering volunteering at the SAGE Center Midtown.
I was a SAGE Center volunteer for almost four years, until July 2018. During my time there I worked at the front desk answering calls and helping program participants with their questions, getting them signed up for events, and whatever else they needed.
The base level operating staff at the Center, among whom I spent most of my time there, couldn’t have been friendlier, and I miss working with them. They’re a big reason I stayed there as long as I did.
The problem was certain SAGE management members who arrived within the past year or so, and whose disrespect, indifference, and flat-out rudeness, made it impossible for me to continue. If you’re going to work without getting paid, you’d at least like to feel that the organization values you and cares about the quality of your experience.
The previous manager whose job included supervising volunteers had been a pleasure to work with. I always knew that he valued me and that he was paying attention to how things were going. If there was a problem, I felt comfortable talking with him about it. I knew that he had our (the volunteers) backs and saw to it that we were treated respectfully by SAGE. That manager left about a year ago.
The first sign that things would be different was when the new manager, without any prior discussion with any of us, announced that she had changed the schedule for front desk volunteers and that we should all pick new work hours. Whatever her reason for making that change, it would have been nice to be consulted ahead of time so that our manager could consider (or at least pretend to consider) the impact on volunteers before making a decision.
This disregard for those who work for SAGE without pay set a pattern. If her predecessor had paid attention to us, let us know that he valued what we did, and looked out for us when needed, the new manager did none of those things. It felt like she only noticed my existence on the occasions when she said hello as she passed the front desk. (Her office was downstairs, so this didn’t happen very often.)
SAGE hosts staff holiday parties and summer outings every year and under the old manager volunteers were invited to both. This may not seem like much of a perk, but these occasions gave me a chance to spend time talking with staff members I was friendly with — something that wasn’t easy to do back at the Center — so I valued the invitations. They also substituted for volunteer appreciation events, which SAGE has never held.
Those invitations not only ended with the arrival of the new manager, she never told us that we were no longer welcome at these events or explained why. Instead, she apparently instructed staff members to say nothing to us about them. They were now supposed to be some kind of secret, as though she couldn’t imagine that we’d wonder about it and find out the truth.
In late July 2018 I took the subway downtown to work my shift and found that the Center was closed (because of the annual staff outing, the date of which I had not known) but my manager hadn’t thought to tell me not to show up. As I stood in the building lobby, I sent the following email to her:
“I’m in the lobby at 305 7th. It would have been nice if someone had told me that SAGE is closed today. “
A few days later I got the following terse reply:
“I’m sorry we failed to inform you that the office was closed. I’ll be sure to put a more firm protocol in place so that we communicate closures far in advance.
Soon afterward, I emailed my manager’s manager, courteously expressing my frustration and asking for an appointment to talk with him about it. He never even answered that email and I never worked at SAGE again.