CityServe, a nonprofit that provides social, emotional and physical care for individuals of all ages and connects them with resources, has a program specifically for those "60 and better" and their care teams.
Now, more than six months after the merger, CityServe CEO Christine Beitsch-Bahmani said not much has changed besides the name.
"We have kept all of the programs and (in fact) we've already started to enhance them," she said.
In the months since the change, Beitsch-Bahmani has looked at areas of improvement and expansion for their services.
Beitsch-Bahmani explained, "we're looking at things like how can we take them to the next level? Are we reaching the right people? Is it the right person leading that group? How can we incorporate other programs?"
While the program seems to be going smoothly and the merger a positive action now, it had a rocky start.
The merger took place after a tumultuous time for SSPTV, turning it into a dysfunctional organization. Executive director Robert Taylor, who staff members characterized as "indifferent" and lacking in leadership ability, resigned in November 2021 with no notice provided publicly. Employees said little was done to recruit another executive director, despite it being a requirement for the agency's status. And complaints were filed by a former employee alleging Taylor filed misleading applications on behalf of SSPTV when applying for Paycheck Protection Program loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
When SSPTV's Friendly Visitor Program, a visitation program that connected volunteers with seniors in the area to socialize and spend time with in their own homes, was halted, volunteers and employees started asking questions and the news of the merger was made public.
After the merger was announced in September 2022, community members quickly began voicing concerns. The public turmoil caused an outpour in disagreeable comments at one Pleasanton City Council meeting.
Many shared their worry and frustration over what might happen to the many valuable programs Senior Support ran, as well as questions of leadership.
In an attempt to connect with residents and share information, leaders of the two nonprofits held a town hall meeting to address the issues at hand.
Residents continued to pose questions as to what the seniors who previously received support from the dissolved SSPTV —- many of whom were dependent on those services —- were supposed to do now.
Tim Sbranti, a CityServe board member, addressed the major concerns expressed by upset residents. On the merger Sbranti explained how the process happened "organically" from his position.
"We (CityServe and SSPTV) were doing the same work. It's not about ownership of the name, it's ownership of the work," Sbranti said. "Because we had more offices, broader geographic reach, a broader donor base and an executive director, it just kind of made sense that this was the direction we went in."
Former SSPTV board president Christine Sevier also attended the town hall meeting to address concerns related to her part in the merger and other considerations.
"The seniors were not being served at the level that they deserved," Sevier said. "Senior Support services lacked the very basic infrastructure to be successful."
"Merging with CityServe made sense and put us in a stronger position for our future," Sevier stated. She added that the organization had also approached other nonprofits in the area for a merger and held numerous logistical meetings.
"I saw how comprehensive they (CityServe) were and how they were ready to jump into action while other nonprofits around the area did not," Sevier said.
Reflecting on the meeting and early days of the merger, Beitsch-Bahmani said some criticism and anxiety was expected when the merger was announced.
"I think anytime there's change or people don't know things, it's fear. It's nerve-racking," Beitsch-Bahmani said.
"We relaunched what was called the Friendly Visitor Program and that is now called the Caring Visitor Program. It's the same program but it goes more in line with our branding and our values of caring, coordinating and connecting. That's why the name was changed," Beitsch-Bahmani said.
"The initial reaction was hard for us but I think over time, once people came in and gave us a chance, they kept coming back. They found reassurance that the care teams and those services are still here," Beitsch-Bahmani said. "So I think it was just a matter of them experiencing our services —- and our heart."
Among the many programs offered now, the center has created "Cooking with Kyle," in which staff instructor Kyle Hemming discusses health-related food topics with audience members.
Many of the current programs CityServe hosts at the center aim to engage, educate and socialize seniors.
In the future, Beitsch-Bahmani hopes to create additional programs, classes and support groups for seniors. Specifically, she plans on introducing a community ambassador program in which older adults can visit and mentor fellow clients on aging and health education.
"I think just helping people is the goal for this department. Is it really about how do we get people connected into the community, how can we help them live healthy and thriving lives," she said. "It's important to see these community members are thriving because it impacts all of us."
To find out more information about CityServe of the Tri-Valley, visit www.cityservecares.org/.
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