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Sandy SanFillippo, Program Secretary

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Sandy SanFillippo

Sandy SanFillippo is Unity House’s Program Secretary, and she’s one of our agency’s long-time superstars. She’s been with us for 14 years and has an associate’s degree in Office Technology from Erie Community College. Since she’s been with us for so long, she’s seen much of our evolution.

A Witness to Our Change

When Sandy first started with us, she worked for Visions Place. This program specifically supported men and women with co-occurring substance use and mental health diagnoses. “It was very different,” Sandy explained. Residents in that program often had extremely complex mental and physical health issues, and the program was much more intensive. Visions Place closed in 2015, and in its place, we opened Unity House.

The conversion to Unity House was a big shift, but she appreciates the change. “Our residents are a little more independent,” Sandy explained. “They’re out getting jobs, they’re going to school. You get to see a little more of their success,” she added.

Right now, Unity House itself is going through some significant shifts of its own. It’s piloting our model of Reintegration, a new element of care under OASAS. As Sandy mentioned, residents will be focusing primarily on finding work or furthering their education. “We’re trying to open them up to other areas that they might not have thought of had they been in a different program,” she explained.

Supporting Both Residents and Staff

Above all else, Sandy loves the person-centered and trauma-informed approach our agency takes. “I’ve always liked the way we put residents first,” said Sandy. At the moment, Sandy is helping residents through the process of accessing benefits and other financial resources. Years ago, this type of work was done by staff members for residents. Instead, Sandy is now helping them through the paperwork collaboratively. “I’m more conscious about reviewing everything with them,” she explained. Sandy’s also a valued part of our Wellness Committee. “I like that we try to encourage healthy habits with our staff and residents,” said Sandy.

If you’ve ever met Sandy, you know she approaches everything with a sense of humor. “No two days are ever the same,” she said with a smile. Sandy says that our residents are constantly surprising her. “They’re always bringing new challenges,” she explained. One of her favorite memories is of a Visions Place resident coming back to visit after reconnecting with her family in Virginia. “She came back to see me to tell me how great she was and how she’s doing,” Sandy said. “It was so good to see her.” Seeing the resident’s success gave Sandy a sense of accomplishment. “The residents are always amazing,” she added. “I think that’s why I love this place.”

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