I’ll freely admit that transitioning from a high level corporate career into retirement was challenging. So when I learned about the Encore Fellows Program, I welcomed the opportunity to match my lifetime of experience with a nonprofit organization that was faced with a challenge. In the process I found what many in the nonprofit realm already know; working in an organization that is mission driven is both enormously gratifying and personally fulfilling.
After an initial series of meetings, I found both the organization and challenge that matched my interest and expertise; Care Alliance Medical Centers. Initially founded as Health Care for the Homeless, Care Alliance Medical Centers (Care Alliance) is a Federally Qualified Health Care organization that provides quality health and dental care, patient advocacy and related services to those in our community who do not have access to care through any other means and despite their ability to pay. Care Alliance staff work through two parallel initiatives; first, providing care and a safety net to the homeless by sending care teams in vans to the places that the homeless have establish for themselves and conducting on-site health screenings and providing basic needs such as food, clothing and everyday care products. The organization has also established care facilities in and around housing projects to provide quality health and dental care, patient advocacy and related services to men, women and children who live at or below the poverty line.
With the need for these services on the increase in and around Cleveland, Care Alliance faced growth that would double the size of the organization, which led to their challenge; how to manage this planned growth to both incorporate new staff into the practices and protocols of the organization and its mission driven culture as well. The senior management staff was sensitive to the fact that, if not carried out properly, it could adversely affect the quality of care provided to its patients therefore affecting its reputation and ability to carry out its mission. They were also concerned that current employees might not perceive the organization’s growth as positive, either organizationally or personally, or that newly hired employees may not have the same passion for the organization’s mission as current employees.
I was offered the challenge to help guide this important initiative. As Change Management Advisor I analyzed the organization to determine; if the organization had the necessary tools to manage change, if the employees were prepared for the change and what should be done to prepare both the organization and its employees for the changes. I designed a study that focused on the people side of change including changes to business processes, systems and technology, job roles, communications and organizational structures. The study informed the recommendations and subsequent processes for moving forward which included a fully designed orientation program for new employees.
Beyond the actual work of the challenge, I accompanied the Care Team in the van and visited with people whom, until now, had been invisible to me-the homeless. Each individual has a story which I discovered are not so dissimilar to all of us. It is not just a cliché that we might find we are all one disaster away from homelessness. It was eye-opening to see and hear these stories and witness how people have found the courage and dignity to face their circumstances. I will forever be changed by these encounters.
I came to admire the dedication and specific challenges of bringing urgently needed health care to those who live on the outer margins of our community. It was deeply rewarding to be able to draw from the skills that I honed over a lifetime and to use these in a new way. I am enthralled by the good works that are being accomplished by area nonprofits and am excited to begin looking for another organization with which to engage.
Author: Leonard D. Young
BVU: The Center for Nonprofit Excellence (BVU), mission is to promote business volunteerism and foster excellence in nonprofit organizations. As part of their mission BVU was awarded a grant from the Cleveland Foundation to establish an Encore Fellows Program. The Encore Fellows Program takes the passion, skills the experience of a retired executive and matches the executive with a nonprofit organization to work with the nonprofit to complete a specific statement of work.