Longtime SAGE constituent and volunteer Caesar Libonati is a retired special education teacher who is widely known for his warm, welcoming presence at The SAGE Center’s nightly dinner check-in. He is also the cofounder of The SAGE Center’s weekly French conversation group.
Why did you want to volunteer at SAGE?
I knew Chris Almvig [one of SAGE’s founders], so I was involved with SAGE from the very beginning. I was much younger back then, and was one of SAGE’s first Friendly Visitors [a program that matches LGBT older adults with volunteers to form mutually beneficial friendships]. I’ve been involved with SAGE off and on since then, but after retiring six years ago, I was looking for something to do. I came in when I heard about The SAGE Center, and when I sat down here, it just felt right.
What keeps you coming back to SAGE?
I feel connected to the community here, and I want to put my energy into helping members of the LGBT community, who may have felt marginalized their whole lives. I smile so that when people come to The SAGE Center they feel more comfortable, less isolated and more willing to be themselves. This simple act can make a big difference; maybe no one smiled at them all day. When I hear that my greeting helped someone feel good about being here, that makes me feel good too.
Any hopes for the future of SAGE?
Until society becomes completely tolerant and open, LGBT people of all ages need to have places to go where we can reenergize and feel comfortable being ourselves. The SAGE Center is place where people can express themselves and grow, where they are seen as valuable and unique. I was recently in Vancouver and met a woman who runs an agency like SAGE. She told me that SAGE is the mother of all agencies like hers. So, I would think that SAGE will continue to be a model, and expand its work for the benefit of everyone.