Better Than Most is a regular feature of The Business of Giving, examining the best places to work among social good businesses and nonprofit organizations.
Denver: And tonight you’ll be going to San Francisco to visit a truly exceptional organization, the Glide Foundation. A radically inclusive, just and loving community mobilized to alleviate suffering and break the cycles of poverty and marginalization. And as you’ll hear this organization has a profound influence on the people who work there.
Caitlin: We take you as you are whether you’re a client here or you are an employee here, we accept you for who you are. It’s one of our core values. Meeting people where they’re at. You feel comfortable being yourself. I don’t have to be anyone else. I don’t have to pretend to be someone different. I’m the same person when I go home as I am when I’m here at Glide.
Kim: We go around the room to ask each other how we’re doing today, right now. That can be, I didn’t sleep last night. I feel terrible. Or I’m feeling fabulous. I think it just invites authenticity in the moment which permeates and speaks to that idea of meeting people where they are on all levels; clients, donors, volunteers. We try to be accepting of where people are authentically, and that’s very different from other cultures that I’ve experienced in the world.
George: Many of our staff were part of our community at one time. They perhaps were living on the street, using the services here at Glide. They began volunteering at Glide, and eventually were hired at Glide. In my department, they perhaps started as a dishwasher and worked their way up to being a lead. I think that’s very unique, and I love it. It helps us stay connected to the community. It helps us know exactly what our community members are going through, how they feel, and what they need. Most of it for the frontline staff is word of mouth. We know who is coming in. We know who would be a good fit for the position, and because our staff is so connected to the community, a lot of the vetting goes to our staff. By the time they get to us, we know this is going to be a pretty good hire.
Lilian: My favorite thing about working at Glide is you have the opportunity to learn so much about yourself and just people in general. Even when you stand outside on the block like during a meal and just observe how people come together and how they choose to be together, you learn a lot about human potential and compassion. I think about a story from a few years ago when I sat in a circle with women from our Women’s Center. An African-American woman who usually comes to the group came in, and she had in her plastic grocery shopping bag a bag of clothes for another woman who’s transgender and white and who’s also homeless. So, she brought this plastic bag of clothes all the way from Oakland, because that’s where she commutes from to come to group every day. She says to me, “This is for so and so, when you get a chance; when you see her.” Just in that moment, I think, in our everyday work, how we sometimes look at the community is a from a perspective of scarcity and need; but from an individual perspective, from person to person, when you get to know each person; even in the midst of that scarcity, there’s a lot of generosity. That ability to love and reach out even from the clients amongst themselves is incredible. Being able to witness that is one of the favorite things about working at Glide for me.
Andea: “Do you think I’d be good at this job?” She’s like, “Yeah, I think you’d be good at this job. It’s going to be a big change for you. You’re going to learn a lot, and you’re going to fail, and that’s okay.” Knowing that she was okay with my failure; I bet it was inevitable and was part of my growth, it helped me to make that leap and jump into a new position. I think a lot of the management at Glide is like that. They’re willing to invest in you and let you make mistakes and grow which I think is amazing and has allowed me to really come into my own and figure out what I want to do, which is awesome.
Kyriell: I would describe the relationship that employees have with one another as familial. It doesn’t feel like work when I come to work. It doesn’t feel very different from home in most days. It’s kind of a funny thing to say but we have become in some ways, family. I really enjoy that. There is a certain level of comfort and ease. Like Caitlin said that we take each other from wherever we come from; that’s where we are. We accept each other however we show up that makes it easy to be at work. It makes it easy to try new things. It makes it easy to explore and expose ourselves to each other. I think there’s something really cool about it.
Caitlin: My manager absolutely supports me in all of those things and even in aspiring to a new position where I find that there’s more growth. I have had roles in other jobs where there was a lot pushback when I wanted to change a role. I’ve never ever felt that here. In fact, when I started here, my manager told me that I understand that at some point your skills are growing to grow out of Glide, and that is totally okay with me. We’ll let you fly your wings at that point. I definitely appreciate the support on that level.
Kim: Part of what we talk about here is that we embrace personal transformation for our clients but it’s also something that we ourselves work on as our own personal transformation. It’s just across the board, and it’s unique. It’s not something I’ve experienced in another work place where people are committed to their own personal work, so that we can also bring that spirit to the work that we do with everyone we meet in our own work place but also the people that we serve. One of the things we do for all new employees ideally in the first quarter that they work here is something called cultural journey which is an immersion in the Glide values, all day for three days. It really explains the history of Glide with our archivists. They meet the founders. They do a tenderloin tour and explore how these values really are real in the work that we do. There’s a very strong commitment to building those values, demonstrating them to the whole organization which I’ve never seen anywhere else.
Andea: So, to be able to connect with our upper management, our leadership on a regular basis, to be at the same table with them is really cool and really shows how Glide is committed to being a community and to hearing everyone’s voice. Everyone is at the table. Not just upper management. We’re all here. We’re all serving the same community, and we’re all part of the same community, so we all have to do the work together which is something that I really appreciated about Glide.
Juliet: I think it’s different every day. Some days… our Meals Program really is I wouldn’t say seasonal but, at the beginning of the month, lot fewer people because of the way that people are receiving their financial support. At the end of the month, it’s a little more stressful. You can definitely feel that when you come in the door. I think that there are days when people are having crisis right in front of you and walk in the door and you just have to wait and watch. And those are the transformational moments, honestly; it’s watching how our team addresses and supports and cares about someone who is someone who probably no one cares about. It’s wonderful.
Kyriell: Glide really pushes me to examine my own situated-ness in the world. Who am I? What privileges do I enjoy? What privileges do I not enjoy? What does that mean for the work that we’re doing? Something about having those opportunities is really… it makes it more than just a job. It’s about really examining who am I in the world, and what is my purpose here? I haven’t seen that in other jobs. That’s been a really good thing for me.
Robert: There’s a way in which every day, I understand what we’re doing, we’re seeing the effects of the care and attention that are given to people in real need here. Hearing from the founders is also just truly inspiring. It boils down to simply the ability to look another person in the eyes and see them truly just as another human being worthy of being loved and valued no matter what their circumstances or background. That’s been a real pleasure.
Denver: I want to thank all those who participated in this piece, Robert Devilla, Juliet Clothier, Caitlin Jolacker, Kim Bender, George Gunthry, Lilian Mark, Andea Walker. To hear this again, read the transcript or see pictures of the participant and of the Glide Foundation, just come to www.denver-frederick.com
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