Sunday, April 15, 2012

BAY COVE HUMAN SERVICES

Bill Sprague (President & CEO), myself and Bob Thomas
Last week, I visited Boston to spend some time with the folks at Bay Cove Human Services, a non-profit that provides a range of services to people facing the challenges associated with addictions, developmental disabilities, mental illness and aging. Bay Cove runs programs at over 100 locations throughout greater Boston and southeastern Massachusetts, serving approximately 4,000 people each day and more than 15,000 each yer. I soon discovered that, despite these large numbers, there is no impersonal, one-size-fits all programming at Bay Cove. Throughout the organization, Bay Cove sees and treats each person they help as a unique individual.
At Kit Clark Senior Services
The first program I visited was Bay Cove's Kit Clark Senior Services. Their senior center on Dorchester Avenue was abuzz with activity - one group of seniors was in the middle of an exercise class, another martial arts class, while others were gathered at tables, socializing with friends. As I walked around and spoke with people, I was struck by the incredible diversity. Some of the folks I met were lifelong Boston residents, while others had immigrated from other parts of the world. Through the universal language of food, and the help of Vietnamese and Cape Verdean translators, I quickly made a lot of friends.
Center Club Kitchen
My next stop was in downtown Boston to visit Center Club and Casa Primavera, club houses for people with mental illness. As I arrived, a group of club members and Bay Cove staff were in the kitchen getting ready for a special lunch in celebration of Easter, which was the day before. The kitchen crew welcomed me in and worked together to prepare a meal of spiral ham, lamb with mint jelly, au gratin potatoes, green beans with slivered almonds and Waldorf salad. As everyone enjoyed their lunch. I looked around the room and saw how at home everyone clearly felt here. Indeed for many club members, the community at the club house is their family. I felt honored to be welcomed into it.
Center Club Kitchen
In the afternoon, I visited one of Bay Cove's more than 30 group homes for people with developmental disabilities and I got a chance to meet the men who lived there: Stanley, Vernon, Ignacio, Tristan and Robert. While it was evident that they were dealing with cognitive challenges, they each had a story to tell and communicated it with enthusiasm - proudly sharing their interests and accomplishments with me. Stanley, the self-appointed chef of the house, let me taste the dinner he was preparing. It was delicious! I was also very impressed with Sal, a staff member whose infectious enthusiasm and pride in what these guys have accomplished led me to the mistaken assumption that he must be relatively new to working with people with developmental disabilities. In fact, he's been doing so at Bay Cove for over 20 years.
Kit Clark Senior Services
So, what is the common thread among the wide range of programs at Bay Cove? It's a commitment to a simple standard, best conveyed by a question that staff members ask themselves everyday: If someone in my family needed any of the services that Bay Cove offers, would I want them to get those services here? Everyone I met from the leadership to frontline workers, is committed to making sure that the answer to that question is always "yes."
With Executive Chef David Blessing
I'll be back in Boston to host a gala fundraiser for Bay Cove on May 17: The Pearl 2012: An Evening of White House Stories and Presidential Cuisine. If you are planning to be in Boston then, I hope that you'll join us. More information is available at www.baycove.org/pearl.