For Kristen Siebert, HR Generalist at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, the connection to Fountain House goes beyond professional. It is a family affair. Her father, Rich Daly, also featured in this Newsletter, is a member of Fountain House’s Board of Directors and the CEO of Broadridge Financial Solutions – the oldest and largest employer of Fountain House members.
“I first heard about Fountain House when they honored my dad at an event. I love how it helps people on their own terms. There is a niche for everyone at Fountain House whether in education, employment, or horticulture. It is so rewarding to see there is something out there for people who are suffering,” Kristen explains.
Kristen attributes her passion for helping people to her father who, “always taught us to treat others how you want to be treated.”
“In high school, I was in a program that trains you to help students experiencing issues like bullying, depression or anxiety,” Kristen recalls. “I learned more about mental illness in that role. I was also a victim of bullying as a child. These experiences made me want to see the good in people and help them be the best they could be.”
Fountain House member, Santee, shares Kristen’s passion for helping others. “I heard about Fountain House while at the Manhattan Psychiatric Hospital. A group of members came. I remember them talking about how many opportunities there are to help fellow members. I’ve always wanted to help people. It’s not just about what you take, but what you can give back,” says Santee.
Kristen remembers another of her father’s invaluable lessons - “that everyone deserves a fair opportunity.” Since joining Cleary Gottlieb’s HR team last year, extending life-changing opportunities to Fountain House members like Santee feels like second nature.
“We typically have two members employed with our firm for a six-month period. A Fountain House staff member spends the first two weeks on-site training them and helping them get acclimated, which is invaluable. Many Fountain House members have been out of the workforce for some time and this opportunity enables them to get their feet back on the ground and back into a routine.”
For Santee, working at Cleary Gottlieb didn’t just get his feet back on the ground, but on a path toward achieving his life goals. “At first I couldn’t believe I could make such a smooth transition into the workforce. I especially love the way Fountain House is set up – once they see you can do things they put you in a position where you can slowly grow and achieve your potential.”
Santee at work
Santee’s potential is impossible to ignore. He exudes confidence, is highly articulate and motivated - qualities that helped him navigate a tumultuous childhood. “I grew up in a very rough neighborhood in the Bronx. There were gunshots almost every night.”
Before being adopted by a family member, Santee lived with his biological mother who had mental illness. “She was going in and out of the hospital. When she was at home, she would just stay in her room all the time. I used to blame her because I didn’t understand it was just the biological DNA. It wasn’t until I came to Fountain House, because of my own illness, that I understood people like me and my mom could get better.”
Santee credits his Transitional Employment job with Cleary Gottlieb as a major step toward healing. But, he doesn’t see himself working as a messenger forever. “My goal is to go back to school and get a degree in social work. I know that my job at Cleary is a stepping stone toward achieving that goal.”
Santee hasn’t forgotten what first appealed to him about Fountain House. He remains fiercely committed to helping his fellow members. “I want to do more to help my peers with their studies. Right now, I tutor them in computer skills. It’s just a start though. I want to do much more for them, but I’ve been kind of busy at work,” he smiles.