Interview with CEO Michael Vance and CFO Sylvia Exantus of Central Boston Elder Services, Inc.
Since 1974, Central Boston Elder Services (CBES), Inc. has been serving elders in the city of Boston by promoting elder independence, dignity and care. Founded by local community leaders and elder advocates, the agency was established to meet the needs of an underserved minority population in the city’s urban center. CBES is the only Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) within the 25 eldercare agencies to aid in the social and economic development of the communities it serves. The organization strives to provide high quality, responsive and supportive services and programs to the elderly, the disabled, and caregivers.
With COVID-19 affecting the senior population in such pronounced ways, we caught up with CBES CEO Michael Vance and CFO Sylvia Exantus to learn more about how they’re navigating the pandemic and shutdown and continuing to serve their clients with critical resources.
How are you helping your clients in this challenging time?
Central Boston Elder Services, Inc. provides services to seniors so they can remain self-sufficient and safely in their homes. Ensuring seniors are able to safely stay in place is more important now than ever. We serve as the conduit between home services providers and our seniors, overseeing their case management and the financing of their care in partnership with the State.
Our primary focus right now is to ensure our seniors and their caregivers are able to stay safe and healthy. We typically serve our 8,000 clients with monthly or quarterly in-person visits, depending on their needs. We now have our team making regular wellness-check calls to each of our seniors to make sure they’re receiving the care they need. Our case managers are making 70-80 calls daily. We have developed COVID-19 services, including the deployment of providers who are trained to respond to the virus. We’re addressing issues of isolation among our senior population as well. Many do not have family support so our regular check-ins are extremely important in assessing their mental well-being and any other assistance they may need in this time of quarantine.
Seniors have been one of the segments hardest hit by COVID-19. We are working with State and City agencies to help with virus tracking, notifying them of any consumers who have tested positive, and those they may have been in contact with to help limit the spread.
How can others in the Boston Private community help you right now?
We hope people might consider donating to our Little Necessities fund, which augments some of the income-based programs, helping seniors get necessities like food, glasses, dentures or walkers. All donations collected by our agency go towards Little Necessities.
The coronavirus situation has again highlighted the large disparities in healthcare access among communities of color. The population we serve was already at risk and is now even more vulnerable. We’re in contact with legislators to share our concerns and we encourage others to do so as well.
We’re also always grateful to those who help spread the word about our group and encourage those who may be eligible to reach out.
What has your experience been like working with Boston Private?
Our relationship with Boston Private is a real partnership. Esther Schlorholtz, Boston Private’s Director of Community Investment, has been a longtime champion for our work. The team at Boston Private is always looking for ways to partner with us and provide support above and beyond the management of our accounts.
By working with Boston Private, we were able to secure a SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan. Our relationship manager worked quickly and over the weekend to make sure our application was prepared correctly in order to get the funds we needed. The loan helps us to support our payroll and keep our staff in place so that we can continue to meet the needs of seniors in Boston.
What’s one lesson or takeaway you’ve learned throughout this crisis?
We’ve learned that our team was capable of adapting quicker and better than we ever could have anticipated to working remotely and with new technologies. We are extremely proud of the team and how seamlessly they transitioned to serving our clients 100% remote. It’s not easy to do and it’s a testament to the great staff and leadership we have and their commitment to the senior community. We’re really focused on the well-being of our staff – we need to care for them so they’re safe, healthy and well enough to care for others.