What’s going on at Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley? | New

Seniors in Pleasanton and surrounding areas will no longer have access to some essential services following the recent elimination of a key initiative of the Tri-Valley Seniors Support Program – the Friendly Visiting Scheme.

The shutdown of popular volunteer service came as a shock to many and raised more questions about the organization as a whole, its leaders and their motivations, and funding at this stage of the pandemic.

Community members, as well as former SSPTV staff, have expressed concern over the closure of the visitor program and the leadership decisions of acting executive directors and alumni, as the non-profit organization based in Pleasanton has now initiated the termination of several programs and positions, despite records apparently confirming adequate funding for payroll and other services.

“I was told that my position as coordinator of the friendly visiting program had been eliminated due to the restructuring of the association and that I had to be made redundant,” Pam Silliman, a former employee, said three weeks ago. “I have over 100 seniors in this program and dozens of volunteers, what will happen to them?”

The Tri-Valley Seniors Support Program is a registered nonprofit that aims to help seniors in the community with a variety of programs and resources, from counseling services to medication assistance to case management, in accordance with its mission statement. The operation is run from the Pleasanton Senior Center, but independent of the city government.

According to the organization’s website, SSPTV is primarily funded by several Alameda County initiatives, including the Regional Agency on Aging, Department of Public Health and Nutrition Services, and Department of Behavioral Health. They also receive support funding from the cities of Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore.

Silliman recalled that she and several other employees were asked for separate phone reviews with SSPTV’s current acting executive director, Mercel Amin, on July 22. It was during this call that Silliman was informed of her position, as well as the Friendly Visiting Program and Caregiver Referral Program to be phased out.

The friendly visiting program connected volunteers with seniors who would spend time socializing or participating in activities together. It was one of the most popular SSPTV programs, until it abruptly disappeared last month with little explanation to the staff and volunteers involved and the general public.

Amin, as well as SSPTV board members contacted by the Weekly in recent weeks, did not respond to questions about the elimination of the friendly visiting program or the nonprofit as a whole.

“SSPTV is transitioning and I’d be happy to tune in in the coming weeks when things become official,” Amin said in a brief email response to inquiries.

Silliman served as coordinator of the Friendly Visiting Program for three years, a service that has existed for more than 40 years since the organization’s inception.

“The seniors who are in this program, many of them have been in it for years and years and years,” Silliman said. “They have a friendly visitor who would come to their house; some would take them out for coffee, some would go to the movies once a week. It’s amazing what the volunteers in this community do for their elders.”

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced the nonprofit to operate largely remotely, program volunteers adapted their work to continue services for seniors. They started telephone visits and sent handmade cards to seniors every month.

“It was a huge relief for the seniors to know that the community hadn’t forgotten about them,” Silliman said. “Now they have totally abandoned all the seniors who have been in this program and are dependent on it.”

At the time of Silliman’s interview last week, elderly clients of the friendly visiting program had not been told it was ending – nearly 14 days after she was told.

Program volunteers were also puzzled when they learned of its closure.

“After retiring from PUSD, I was looking for a way to volunteer,” said Pam Grove.

In 2020, Grove contacted Silliman who told her about the friendly visiting program and put her in touch with two seniors to visit. Grove had been involved with the program ever since.

“This program has been so valuable to isolated seniors in our community, especially during the current pandemic,” Grove said. “It’s hard to believe this program has let down the vulnerable seniors who I’m sure looked forward to weekly interaction with their volunteers.”

Grove also attested to the importance of the Friendly Visiting Program and its impact on area seniors.

“The program offered foot care, vaccine information, made sure every senior in the program received holiday gifts, and even coordinated with the Valley Quilters to provide each senior with a beautiful, handmade quilt. hand last December,” she said.

Silliman asked if funding was the problem with the friendly visiting program, saying she asked the question directly during the phone call with Amin. “We’ve been told for months that all of our contracts have been accepted again for this fiscal year,” Silliman said. “I was told, ‘No, the funding hasn’t been withdrawn. “”

The surprise elimination of the visitor program is the latest example of recent dysfunction at the longtime nonprofit.

Former executive director Robert Taylor stepped down last November after four years at the helm, with little to no notice publicly provided by the nonprofit of his departure. Taylor now works as a chief revenue officer for an information technology services and consulting operation, according to her LinkedIn profile.

Following Taylor’s exit, the SSPTV board appointed former administrator Amin as interim executive director while they undertook the recruitment of a new executive.

But several staff members told The Weekly that the nonprofit has made no attempt to permanently fill the position of executive director, despite it being a requirement for membership status. ‘agency.

Public records obtained by the weekly show during his tenure as executive director, Taylor applied for and received nearly half a million dollars in loans from the US Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program earlier in the pandemic of COVID-19.

The loans were received by SSPTV from April 2020 to February 2021 – and amounted to $221,200 each. According to the US Small Business Administration, Taylor said the money would go to payroll discrepancies. However, multiple sources confirmed that the organization had already secured full payroll funding through grants received from the county at the time the P3 applications were submitted.

Bank statements from SSPTV obtained by The Weekly show that funds from the PPP loan were kept in a separate investment account and were not mixed with the nonprofit’s general funds. Records also indicate that all loans and interest acquired through PPP were eventually canceled by the federal government.

Former SSPTV employee Mary McNamara filed two complaints — in fall 2021 and spring 2022 — through the Small Business Administration’s online system regarding PPP loans and allegedly misleading applications filed on behalf of the local non-profit association. These, however, have not been further investigated or addressed by the federal agency, according to McNamara.

McNamara, an SSPTV employee for seven years, including five in case management, until she was fired in 2020, criticized Taylor’s tenure.

“He had no experience with older people,” she said. “He was missing half the time. He wasn’t there.”

There are additional reports that during his tenure as director, Taylor exhibited an ineffective style and a disconnect with the demographics of SSPTV’s services. He had no experience working with older people before taking the job in 2017, according to several former staff members.

Taylor has not responded to requests for comment in recent weeks regarding allegations or questions regarding his leadership during his tenure as executive director of SSPTV.

Other former staffers support claims of Taylor’s indifferent leadership.

“(Taylor) was very disinterested in the people we served. And every suggestion we had, like at a staff meeting, would be dismissed as to going beyond what our elders needed,” Silliman said. .

Silliman and other staff have expressed interest in expanding their programs and creating more opportunities to connect with seniors.

“It was almost like we were going backwards instead of forward with our mission statement, which is to provide seniors and my program with socialization and to make them feel like they can stay independent. and safe in their own home,” Silliman said.

Curt Hawk, a retired fire captain from the Newark Fire Department, has volunteered several times with Senior Support. He knew founding executive director Marlene Petersen until Taylor took over in January 2017. His wife, Lorie, started working for SSPTV in 1995.

“Over the years, I have been consistently impressed with the dedication of everyone who worked in Main Support,” said Curt Hawk. “Everyone’s dedication was to do as much as possible, and even more, to provide a wide range of services, often personalized, to as many seniors as possible.”

Hawk thinks the sentiment within the organization has changed after the new leadership.

“After Director Petersen retired and the board hired Robert Taylor, my wife continued to work for Senior Support for about two years. During that time, she and her colleagues found that the focus on the ‘providing the best for our seniors was lost,’ Hawk said.

Following the closure of services provided by SSPTV, most recently the friendly visiting programme, concerns have grown around the organization’s future plans. The nonprofit has made no official statement about what the organization plans to do after the visitation program is eliminated.

About Elizabeth Fisk

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