I landed in San Francisco on Saturday night at midnight and had a quick tour of how to get to my office on Sunday, starting at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly on Monday morning. Right away I was included in the daily happenings of Little Brothers and brought on as another member of the 4-person team when I arrived and was included in the Monday morning staff meeting. For the first day, I learned how to use the computer system and then dove right in.
Within the first few days, I learned so much about the history of the organization. With a huge employee turnover throughout the year before I arrived, the organization was putting all of its efforts into re-orienting itself and holding on to the mission throughout all of the chaos. By just trying to survive, the organization was having a difficult time trying to expand its programs and reach the most elders in the San Francisco area. So, right away I was assigned a few big summer projects as my own. Since I brought experience working with Little Brothers in Boston, I was asked to create the Phone Visiting Program, which matches elders with volunteers to call them on a weekly basis to engage isolated elders in meaningful conversations. Within two weeks, this program was established and running, and about 20 elders were matched with volunteers.
The second major project assigned to me was to re-write the General Operations system manual. This project was started due to the experience of current employees after the previous management all left around the same time, leaving only an outdated manual of how the organization operates. Therefore, I was asked to update all of the information about each role of the organization. This ongoing summer project has been a great way for me to really understand each role at Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, how events are planned and executed, how elders are referred and accepted, how funding is searched for and received, and how each role is correlated with one another.
The third large project of the summer was to assist our Development Director and Executive Director with research on how to receive funding and grants from many corporations around the Bay Area. This has been one of the most interesting projects to work on because it allows me to understand the side of the non-profit world that involves money. It has been fascinating and frustrating for me to see how difficult it is to find and receive funding and understand how little money is available to fund projects and organizations working for the elderly population. Money and funding are not ever the first things that people tend to think of when they hear “non-profit”, but it is so extremely important for the overall survival of the organization and the well-being of the population they serve.
Amidst these larger projects, I have been giving smaller office projects each week such as helping to plan and organize events, recruit volunteers, assess elders, and update records. As well as office projects, I have been able to enjoy the elder interactions through the five elders that I am assigned to call weekly through the Phone Visiting Program, special weekend outings and picnics with elders, and the occasional weekly lunches and drop-ins at the office from some of our elders. It is one thing to work in the office, completing tasks and planning events, but hearing directly from our elders about the appreciation they have for Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly because of the work we do is truly another experience entirely and makes the work even more enjoyable.