September 2012

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Leading a Family in Brownsville

Sadie Sanders: Building family values for nearly three decades.


Sadie Sanders is more than just a Community Coordinator in the Housing Authority. For more than 27 years, she has been like a second mother in the Howard Houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Sanders leads community programs for children who live in public housing. “We oversee after-school and evening programs. We do homework help,” Sanders explained.

She also organizes community gardens and leads summer trips to the museums and amusement parks. These things help educate and entertain children, and create a sense of community. Because she lives in the area, she doesn’t feel like it’s just another civil service job, but rather a lifetime responsibility. She checks children’s report cards to makes sure children are doing their best in school.“

We are like another family to them,” she said, noting that Community Coordinators are often invited to birthday parties and other family events in the area. “It’s not work and then you go home.”

She should know. Sanders noted that what the public doesn’t often see is that workers in her title put in the extra effort during emergencies. She spent the night in the community center during Hurricane Irene last year. On Sept. 11, 2001, she stayed in the community center overnight with the children because many parents were unableto get home.

“The families know us, so they treat us like family,” Sanders said.

It’s a rewarding job, she said, because she gets to watch a lot of children in the community grow up and benefit from the programs that she leads.

“I’ve had a lot of influence on a lot of young people who come through my center,” Sanders said.

She added with a laugh, “Some get city jobs and are making more than me. That’s a reward you get.”

Sanders, a member of the Union’s Executive Committee, lamented that public housing has often been neglected, but noted that her job proved that investment in public housing and especially in community programs for young residents was vital.

“We should be investing more in our children,” she said. “My goal is to make sure I’m doing the best job I can do.”

Social Service Employees Union Local 371
817 Broadway, New York, NY 10003