With her more than 26 years of experience working at HFH, Payroll Manager Desiree Sanabria has had ample opportunity to note changes in everything from payroll management software to the location of HFH’s physical office space.
“When we were moving from 50 to 36, I found what I used to call my “bible,” and it’s a steno pad with everything from the first time I started doing the payroll,” she said, referring to HFH Central Office’s move from 50 Cooper Square to 36 Cooper Square.
Sanabria has also noted changes in HFH personnel as the organization has grown to over 300 employees whose timecards she processes every pay cycle.
Unsurprisingly, she has a knack for name recall, easily listing the first, last, and maiden names of former co-workers at HFH.
“When I was younger, I knew every person’s name. I did,” she affirmed. “If you said your first name, I knew your last name and I could tell you where you work.”
Sanabria was promoted to the role of Payroll Manager in 1997 after several years spent working as an Administrative Coordinator at Prospect family residence and Clinton, a former HFH family residence.
“I enjoyed Clinton,” she said, recalling her time at the facility fondly. “The people that were there at that time—this was in the 90s—were a wonderful group of people. I enjoyed it and I enjoyed coming to work every day.”
However, Sanabria came to embrace the new responsibilities and skillsets required of her as Payroll Manager, finding her workplace community expanded by the extensive coordination she undertakes each pay cycle with HFH staff from across the organization.
The Payroll Manager operates out of the finance department of HFH’s Central Office, where Sanabria is widely recognized by her colleagues and supervisors for her extensive knowledge base, amiability, and long-standing commitment to HFH.
“She’s been with Homes for the Homeless for over 25 years—that alone says to me that she’s a good employee,” said Robinson Jimenez, Controller at HFH’s Central Office, and Sanabria’s direct supervisor. “But besides that, she’s very dedicated to what she’s doing and she’s a good co-worker.”
Sanabria recalled her first year as Payroll Manager as a time of transition, including many long workshops with representatives from Automatic Data Processing, Inc. (ADP), a payroll services provider, as she became an ADP Certified Specialist in Payroll, Time, & Attendance.
“ADP has come a long way,” she remarked. “Now, they have it where everything is sort of combined with time and attendance and transmitting the payroll, but before it was three or four steps.”
Outside of HFH, Sanabria is constantly seeking new ways to involve herself in her community.
She does water aerobics three nights a week and regularly attends events like film screenings and informative talks at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a Harlem-based research library.
One of the most fulfilling ways in which Sanabria spends her time is as a volunteer at the Education Alliance’s Sirovich Center for Balanced Living, which offers free meals, programs, classes, and activities to senior citizens in New York City.
For three years, she has been volunteering weekly at the Sirovich Center, handling their payroll and assisting with administrative tasks.
She first stumbled upon the Center serendipitously, while stopping for lunch at one of her favorite restaurants, S’MAC, located close to the building in which the Center is housed.
“They make all kinds of macaroni and cheese—I was addicted, and I’d go there practically every day,” she raved. “On the way, I would walk past this huge building and every time I’d go past there, there were these earrings in the window that I liked.”
One day, on the way from S’MAC back to HFH’s Central Office, Sanabria felt compelled to stop inside the building to purchase the earrings she’d often eyed in the window.
She began asking the Center’s Director about the earrings, which had been made by participants in the Center’s programming.
“When I asked her about what the place was, it was like a spiritual thing came over me,” she recalled. “I found myself asking her if she needed help.”
Sanabria believes the memory of her mother, who had passed away, was the reason behind her emotional pull towards the Sirovich Center, where she’s been volunteering ever since.
Her personal, sustained, and impassioned commitment to the Center is characteristic of her approach to both her professional career and her involvement in her community.
“Once I put my mind to it, that’s it,” she said. “If it’s something I like, then I’ll stick with it.”
As for her 26 years working for HFH, Sanabria finds herself motivated by her workplace community, and the compassion she notes in her co-workers.
“I really enjoy what I do and the people I’ve met here along the way,” she said. “I’ve found over the years, that all of the people that have worked here really wanted to help. You know, it was in their heart to help people.”