Looking inward and forward in the human services sector

May 31, 2022 00:45:53
Looking inward and forward in the human services sector
Just a Bite
Looking inward and forward in the human services sector
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Show Notes

Nonprofit organizations have played an outsized role in responding to the pandemic, from leading the public health response to supporting families as they navigate the economic fallout from the public health crisis. Yet many health and human services organizations are facing a compounding crisis as they struggle to respond to sustained demand for their services without the funding and flexibility they need. In this episode, we talk with Michael Corey, executive director of the Human Service Chamber of Franklin County, about the state of the human services sector nearly two and a half years after the pandemic began. 

References: 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 1 00:00:19 Nonprofit organizations have played an outsized role in responding to the pandemic from leading the public health response to supporting families as they navigate the economic fallout from the public health crisis. Yet many health and human services organizations are facing a compounding crisis as they struggle to respond, to sustained demand for their services without the sustainable funding and flexibility that they need. So in this episode, we talk with Michael Corey executive director of the human service chamber of Franklin county about the state of the human services sector, nearly two and a half years after the pandemic began. Thanks for tuning in. Speaker 2 00:01:08 I have the great pleasure and honor today of talking with Michael Corey executive director of the human service chamber of Franklin county, 2020 Columbus foundation award winner winner of the 2021 George V Voinovich humanitarian award from his law school, Alma mater, the Ohio state university Morritz college of law and all around nice sky and champion for social justice. Uh, we happen to meet way back in the before times. <laugh> when, uh, he had just taken the helm at the chamber back in 2017 at a Columbus foundation, big table conversation hosted by Susan G. Coleman Columbus. Uh, and I have been lucky to call him a friend and mentor ever since. So it's really good to have you on the podcast Speaker 3 00:01:52 Can make me cry right outta the gate. Aw Speaker 2 00:01:54 <laugh> Speaker 3 00:01:54 Thank you for that very generous introduction in your friendship and all the work that you do and the chance to partner and work together, um, in so many ways. So thank you for having me today. Speaker 2 00:02:03 Oh, please. The, the feeling is mutual. Well, why don't you start out by telling our audience a little bit about the human service chamber of Franklin county and the wonderful organizations that you represent? Speaker 3 00:02:14 Sure. So, uh, we're essentially a chamber of commerce for about 145 health and human services nonprofits in Franklin county. They do, um, as a diverse range of work, uh, as they are diverse in the size of the organizations, we have agencies doing a little bit of everything in health and human services, some food pantries, one food bank, um, some organizations have a staff of zero and some agencies have a staff of a couple thousand. Uh, some organizations are a single shop that exists in Columbus. That's been there for over a century and some organizations that are national that either have a presence here with an affiliate or are based here nationally and have a presence in many other states. So our job is to serve that very diverse range of organizations, the diverse, uh, demographics, the people that they serve and to try and help them however we can. Speaker 3 00:03:03 Um, and that has been, uh, that much more challenging and that much more important, but also that much more, uh, rewarding and fulfilling over the last two years in particular. But through our focus of, of helping the helpers, um, we provide government relations at all levels of government. We provide professional services and resources to all of them. Um, we provide PPE, uh, we've become a distributor of PPE and all sorts of other things that our generous community has provided right now. We're navigating a donation of furniture from Victoria's secret and 5,000 air purifiers from Ohio state. Um, both of which are incredibly welcome <laugh> um, among other things that, that people route through us, to our members. Um, we also communicate to our folks, uh, every day we try to send a, uh, succinct, but comprehensive email to the 145 CEOs that we serve filled with updates, analysis, opportunities, connections, surveys, reports, webinars, conferences, anything that we can provide to be valuable. Um, because in the end, when you're trying to serve such diverse array of organizations, they all need very, very different things at very, very different times, but they all need information and access to one another. And if nothing else, the human service chamber can be that convener and distributor of, of, uh, information, relationships. Speaker 2 00:04:22 Yeah, amazing how diverse of a sector you represent and a body of organizations. And yet I've been witness to all of the different campaigns and efforts, uh, and drives that have been organized under the helm of the chamber and have brought together this diverse array of organizations and their leaders at the same table to work on issues that impact all of them. And of course the COVID 19 pandemic is an obvious one. Right. Um, I know though that there's been legislation that has garnered widespread concern mm-hmm <affirmative> or support among your organizations, um, and you bring them together on that. So just appreciate that our sector has that place to come together and to work around collective action. And, you know, as I mentioned earlier, you started as executive director in 2017. So five years later. Yeah. I imagine you didn't predict that the human services sector would be facing the challenges it is now that you would be so well versed in PPE and ventilation, man, Speaker 3 00:05:28 <laugh> I, I did not see myself as a amateur epidemiologist or logistics person or any of the other random things that I've had to be, but it's, it's illustrative of the range of things that my bosses have to engage in. They have to wear 10 hats. And, and so have I, um, I take out the recycling and I'm pushing for pro recycling policy. So that's, that's a part of the range of the job. Speaker 2 00:05:53 Oh, I love that. So yeah. Talk, talk to our listeners more about how day to day operations from taking out their cycling and beyond have changed for the sector you represent. Right. We know, have you seen consistency in those changes across your sector that they have called on you to help them work on? Hmm. Speaker 3 00:06:13 So that demarcation point is March 1st, 2020, um, pre pandemic, um, operations were challenged, um, primarily by things that the federal government and sometimes the state government were doing. Um, we spent a lot of time working with Senator Portman's office, Beeching him to lobby the white house at the time, not to do things and, uh, had varying degrees of success with that. And then March 20, 20 arrives. And we were all scrambling, as everybody knows. Um, because there was this tsunami of need in certain areas of the health and human services sector in a significant disruption to the way agencies could do business, but they all had to keep doing business mm-hmm <affirmative> and under governor Dew wine's order, I think it was of March 17th, 20, 20, um, health and human services. Nonprofits were part of that exception where they had to keep and they could keep going. Speaker 3 00:07:12 And most of them did. Um, those that could adopt some sort of hybrid work model did, but many of them because of the nature of their work had to keep going in person indoors and did an incredible job of that. Um, the introduction of telemedicine and telehealth, as well as other technological tools to engagement with their clients and with stakeholders was picked up quite quickly and has persisted in many ways. Um, I see that continuing, although there's still a digital equity gap, both at the agencies, as well as within the communities that they're trying to reach, but our agencies haven't been coming to us too much with day to day operations needs, uh, in terms of how they engage with clients. It's been more about how they're preparing for whatever is next and trying to find sustainable business practices, where they can use our assistance. Speaker 3 00:08:04 And the way in which we're trying to interject a little bit is we're trying to save money and time. And, um, even thinking, um, for as many of our members as we possibly can, not because that's so urgent today, but because we're concerned about we're funding levels will be at in a year or five, and we want our sector to be able to be as efficient and streamlined as possible, which means sharing of resources in terms of how they run their businesses, thinking them as businesses for a moment as possible. And every agency is in as different in places as they have been in since March of, of 2020, which is a really astonishing thing to say this far along. Um, some agencies have completely figured it out and working in this sort of hybrid mode, uh, fits in beautifully with the way they provide services and the way that they receive funds for the services that they provide. Speaker 3 00:09:02 And others it's been an enormous strain and continues to be. And there's a lot more difficulty in trying to figure out how to do this going forward when much of the world, at least in the United States, or at least in Ohio, or at least in Columbus has moved on with a lot of the precautions that have been in place. So to give you a concrete example, um, we're spending a lot of time talking about improving the quality of indoor air at our agencies. Um, both where clients are congregating or where just the employees of that agency are congregating. And a lot of organizations, as we've learned, know that they need to do certain things or could do certain things to improve a, the quality of the indoor air. So that B there aren't outbreaks of COVID or other airborne disease. So they can provide services in a more efficient way, but they don't own their building or it's too expensive. And we're trying to figure out how we become a shared service in that capacity, how we can make changes in that way. Um, a lot of organizations are asking for help, not with the day to day per se, but with the personnel mm-hmm <affirmative> to carry out the day to day. And so much attention is on technology and the new app and this, that, or the other, and all of that is all well and good, but we need people mm-hmm Speaker 2 00:10:17 <affirmative>, Speaker 3 00:10:18 Um, I, I've never, in my five years in this role, seen a more uniform challenge for the breadth of the sector than I do right now and have for the last six months and that's it's workforce. Um, everyone is struggling to recruit and retain talent, and that incorporates so many things and organizations are in different places, what they can do to evolve around that. Um, and that's, that's a challenge that we saw coming before the pandemic, the pandemic, um, accelerated that and exacerbated that. And I do not know what the solution to that is going to be. Speaker 2 00:10:54 Uh, I mean, we've absolutely seen that in our sector, our, our more narrow sector within the umbrella that you represent as well. And, you know, we often struggle in our sector with this unfortunate mindset, uh, that we shouldn't pay as well, or as competitively or provide, uh, as quality of benefits to our employees, because we are the do gooders and right. And, you know, we, we could cover a whole other podcast about how harmful that attitude is, because truly you're talking about people meeting the very most basic needs in their communities who are providing essential services, childcare, healthcare, right, food access, et cetera. Um, they need to be lifted up and it's just difficult in our world to drive revenue in the same way that a for profit company can and make adjustments to, you know, our wages and what we offer, but that's right. Uh, you know, I'd like to, on that note, put a plug in to listeners about, um, our AmeriCorps programs, because we view that as one way to expose new grads and folks in transition in their career to our sector, right. And to connect them to it and help them see a path forward in their, in their career journey in that sector. I mean, you, yourself didn't didn't know that you necessarily show up in, in this sector, did you? Speaker 3 00:12:12 I didn't. Yeah. Um, I aspired to it. Yeah. And, uh, had to figure out how to get into it from the path that I had originally chosen. I'm a recovering lawyer. <laugh> and, um, I was a private practice attorney in Columbus and was eager to get into the education policy space at a nonprofit. And, um, I had to convince that organization that I could bring skills that would transfer well into a, uh, very different kind of organization doing very different kind of work than I had been doing. Um, and even, uh, getting into this role. That was, that was part of the challenge. I wanted administrative job at that point in my career, I hadn't managed a budget. I hadn't managed a team outside of, in, you know, a college or a graduate school or law school setting. Um, and I had to find an organization that had a staff of one other person and a tiny budget, um, in order to convince a board to give me a shot, <laugh> running a nonprofit. So I got very lucky, uh, in finding a place now where I would, I would do this for free if I could do it for free. Speaker 2 00:13:13 Well, it just so happens that many of the best people I know who work in or work in public policy on this side of things, as advocates are also recovering lawyers. So I, we accept all attorneys, please apply. That's Speaker 3 00:13:26 Right. That's right. Speaker 2 00:13:27 <laugh> I happen to know that the chamber has a great job board that you can visit as well to see some opportunities in the sector here in central Ohio. Speaker 3 00:13:35 Thank you for that plug. Um, absolutely. Yeah. In June or July of 2020, no. Prior to that, um, really early on, um, a lot of organizations, um, had to lay some folks off and we had other organizations that were still in the position to hire people and they wanted to, because they were seeing that immediate surge of need, um, in the community. So they asked us to make it easier for them to hire people from their colleagues, organizations. And we went to our, our vendor, the wonder jam, built us out a jobs board, and it's, it's continued from there. And, um, if you're listening and you're looking for nonprofit work, please check it out. Unless you're at one of our other member agencies, we don't want you going from one to the other. I'll get in trouble for that. <laugh>, Speaker 2 00:14:18 We're just bringing new blood into the sector. That's right. That's what we wanna do. Well, would you talk with us about what you're focused on right now, um, from maybe from that government relations part of what you do, right. What are, what are your members, your, your bosses encouraging lawmakers to do right now to continue responding, to acknowledge that actually we're not post pandemic, right? There's going to be significant long term ramifications and fallout from what's occurred. And what's, what's impacted the way that all of us operate in the, um, industries and infrastructure in our communities that we count on, you know, what are your short term priorities and what are your longer term priorities, Speaker 3 00:15:00 Right. Um, that could take several hours <laugh> <laugh>. Um, so I'll try to take this by level of government mm-hmm <affirmative> at the federal level. All of the goals right now are essentially short term because we're operating under the, uh, timeline of between now and, and the election and the end of the year. So our top priority with Congress right now is passing more COVID relief, COVID preparedness. Um, and even though that isn't directly beneficial to our members, every time there's a spike in cases, things get harder in the health and human services sector from an operations perspective, as well as a service delivery perspective. And it is imperative that we have what we need in terms of tests, PPE, vaccines, um, and quite frankly, um, uh, other resources that can be beneficial in mitigating against COVID. So that if, and when another significant wave emerges, as it may be happening right now that we're ready and that we can a avoid the sort of disruption as well as of course, suffering that we've seen in past waves. Speaker 3 00:16:06 So that's, that's priority number 1, 2, 3, um, and we are hopeful that something will pass, but we do not know when we do not know why it is taking SU darn long. Mm. Um, uh, I mean, we do, but, um, there seems to be no reason why they're waiting at this point, aside from politicing, they think they can get away with waiting longer. So they are, um, but that's, that's probably number one. Um, after that, it's a range of things at the federal level. Um, we would love to see components of the now defunct bill back better act passed into law. There is, uh, in our membership interest across that board of what was at least proposed. Um, I think we sense the most likelihood of something passing with regards to childcare and with regards to housing. So we are certainly supportive of that, but to be very honest with you, folks are so all over the place that it's been difficult to pinpoint what to prioritize, what to push for, unless until we get indications that there's a realistic chance that something might get 50 plus one votes mm-hmm <affirmative>. Speaker 3 00:17:08 Um, so that's, that's been a bit of a challenge on, on that front. Um, beyond that we've been pushing on some of the priorities that the national council and nonprofits has been advocating for. Um, and they've been a tremendous resource and, and advocate at the national level, um, where they have the ability to walk down the street and, and talk to some congressional folks in person and, and whatnot. But, um, generally speaking the priority with Congress is let's get COVID corralled and now let's get inflation crowd mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and that's a much harder ask, obviously because you can't flip a switch or pass a bill to, to remedy that that's a global problem that has all sorts of, of causes, um, and potential solutions, but we're, we're eager to see some movement there, but alleviating the strain on nonprofits is the general perspective we're bringing to Congress. Speaker 3 00:17:55 Um, and nothing can do that more than getting COVID corral once and for all, and being prepared for additional pieces of that at the state level. Um, we were a part of a push for elements of the capital budget to drive funds to a lot of our member organizations. Um, that's always a priority every two years, um, at present. A lot of what we're trying to do at the state level is saying, please, don't, um, there's a lot of legislation that's very problematic, um, that would have either a direct or indirect consequence for our members and the people that they serve. So that's our priority right now is to stop some of the unfortunate things from happening that are currently being bantered about, um, at the general assembly. But beyond that, we're, we're trying to prioritize what they do with a lot of the American rescue plan funds that they're still sitting on and not only promoting transparency, but investments in people, programs and infrastructure to benefit nonprofits and the people that they're serving. Speaker 3 00:18:49 Um, they're sitting on a lot of money mm-hmm <affirmative> and we are hopeful that they will make thoughtful investments to address urgent as well as systemic needs. That's the short term and the medium term slash long term piece mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, and it's, it runs a wide gamut of, of where they could allocate those funds. And quite frankly, um, we're not sure what their priorities are right now. I don't know that anybody does. Um, we have been grateful to governor Dew wind's administration in many ways. Um, and we know that there is an up battle with some of the folks and forces at the general assembly to not do some of the things that, um, there's a lot of alignment, um, across partisan lines to get things done. So, um, largely at the state, we are supportive of those advocates like you, and some of your colleagues that advocates for Ohio's future, um, and center for community solutions that are doing incredible work, where we just don't have the bandwidth to do it. Speaker 3 00:19:39 And, uh, you read our minds and know exactly what we care about, and we're happy to, to be part of that team cheering for and advocating for certain things to be of benefit and against the things that would not, um, the local levels, where we spend the bulk of our time, um, at the city and the county level mm-hmm <affirmative> and our priorities there in the short term are getting out American rescue plan funds. Um, and a lot of this does come down to money. I wish I could tell you that there was a robust public policy platform, but the reality is that a lot of this comes down to money because at the local level, we don't have to convince folks to care about these issues or about the people that are going to benefit by these issues, uh, by investments in these issues. Speaker 3 00:20:18 Um, so it comes down to how do we prioritize investments and get those dollars out when we're, of course not the decision maker, others are at the city and county, and they have been tremendous partners over the last two years plus, um, there's been less pressure to get those dollars out because there wasn't a short timeline, like there was with the cares money and there are numerous other forces that have required them to slow down in making some of these investments too. Um, at the city level, the income tax uncertainty was part of it, uncertainty about what other federal investments were going to be made were part of it. Mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, uncertainty about the economy and what COVID was going to do next, have all delayed or merited delay making some of these decisions and distributions of funds mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, but our approach, there is the same where we're urging investments in people, programs and infrastructure for the sector, um, and making those investments as open and as possible to give nonprofits the agility to make decisions because things continue changing week to week, day to day. Speaker 3 00:21:16 Absolutely beautiful. Yeah, it's just, it's been very, very difficult for anybody to plan out more than 30 days, um, in our sector and out, but, um, that's, that's the short term priority. The medium long term priority at the city and county level is what do we do when the American rescue plan funds and the tsunami of contributions that have come from other sectors individuals dries up mm-hmm <affirmative> and our big concern. The thing that keeps me up at night, perhaps more than anything else is, is figuring that chess out because I'm terribly concerned that the state investments of funds are going to diminish significantly, even from where they were in February of 2020, and that the federal investments are going to start really, um, not being there in the way that they have been reliably, um, for decades, um, depending upon how some things go over the next couple of years. Speaker 3 00:22:04 So rallying our community across sectors to find ways to really fund the health and human services sector in a much more robust and sustainable way is the key to all of this and all the funding streams that exist currently, um, a relative, um, are relatively flat with the exception of the injections of the a R P funds. Of course, that means it's a cut because everything is more expensive and has been, and that's not going to change. Um, inflation will be with us for a very long time. We're just, we're seeing a, um, inflation to the end degree right now because of a confluence of factors, but that's the challenge. There's so many things colliding at once that have been colliding at once and that are gonna continue colliding. And there's incredible uncertainty because of that. So it's difficult to, um, identify precise priorities because we don't know what's coming. Speaker 3 00:22:57 Um, in June of 2021, the county commissioners in, in Franklin county, hosted a hearing, asking for public advice on what people should do. I should say what the county should do with its American rescue plan funds. And I testified at that and at the time cases were low. Delta was still just overseas. People were feeling pretty good. And I told them that I wasn't sure if we were in the eye of the hurricane or if we were on the edge of it. And we were obviously in the eye of the hurricane and the problem with all of this is that to continue the hurricane analogy, um, when there's a hurricane, there's a storm surge. And after the hurricane, the water recedes back to the shoreline, well with this, the water will not recede the shoreline and making sure that we're putting money where it's going to need to be, to shore up the sector and help people navigate all of the uncertainty ahead, uh, is going to be the key to all of this. Speaker 3 00:23:57 And we're not going to see that. I don't think from the state, and I do not know where the federal government will be on that in five years. So that's, that's the long term priority, even though that's not something very precise or specific. Um, I mean, it's, it's gonna be a little bit of everything. Yeah. Um, we need more housing. We need to shore up our food supplies. We need to figure out all of these enormous challenges. How are we gonna help the youth that have been just completely disrupted by the last two years? How are we going to deal with the enormous and billow and consequences on public health and grief and climate change? And it's many, many, um, strands of consequence too. It's all happening right now. Meanwhile, the workforce is experiencing a seismic shift of its own and how we work is experiencing a seismic shift of its own. Speaker 3 00:24:46 And where we work is too, what are we gonna do with all this real estate that people don't wanna use anymore? Um, what are the innovations coming in transportation and everything else, all of which is intertwined and interrelated. And we haven't even talked about a lot of the ODS systemic elements that are billowing once again, too, where folks don't want us to talk about racism and how intertwined and intertangled, that is with everything. I mean, it's a lot of challenges coming right now. And since I'm just whining, I'll tell you what, what the things are that are keeping me up at night head, what are the existential crises that are coming for our sector and for our community? One is the threat to our democracy. I am deeply deeply concerned about that. If we do not have a function in government, we're in trouble, two is misinformation and disinformation. Speaker 3 00:25:37 Uh, we've already seen the consequences of that with, um, COVID and vaccines and how that's been weaponized and that's hurt all of us. That's gonna get worse. The technology around that is going to, um, get better. So it's gonna get harder to navigate that. That affects our sector directly in a lot of ways. Third is climate change. Um, we're going to see that really pick up and speed up here. And even though Ohio will be, um, inoculated more so than many, many other parts of the country from it, we're still going to experience it in lots of ways. Um, just looking at energy bills alone as an indicator of that. Um, how, how do we brace for that as well as people that are gonna start moving here in larger percentages, because they want to be in a place that's not disrupted by wildfires every summer. Speaker 3 00:26:23 Um, that's one of the few geographic advantages that we have in Ohio. Um, those three things in particular are, are very, very concerning to me and all of it will relate to our sector. Um, and then you fold into that, um, some of the nefarious, um, movement that's happening in government and outside of government and you fold in the workforce, um, shifts that are happening. Those are all very, very concerning pieces. And I do not know what the solutions to any of those pieces are, but it's all intertwined with our, with our members and the work that they do. And especially the people that they serve disproportionately mm-hmm <affirmative>. But with all of that, I still have lots and lots of hope. Um, because even though all of those scary things are happening and, and coming and in many ways are here, um, there's more people than ever that are working on these issues and working urgently on these issues. People like you. And, um, I do not know how we will navigate it, or when will we navigate it, but I know that we will. And, uh, I feel like we're all on the plane together. And we know that we're, we've been experiencing turbulence and it's a little steadier now than it was over the last two years. And we know that it's gonna get very turbulent once again, and we just have to fly through it. Hmm. Speaker 2 00:27:37 Kind of going to that analogy and your earlier hurricane analogy, I was thinking of how so often it feels like not just now during this pandemic that will never end and the escalating climate change crisis that obviously will only worsen without significant action, right. That we so often, and our elected officials so often make decisions while in that eye, whatever that eye is. Mm. And I mean, if you think back to the good old days of the nineties, when people were doing great people, you could have a two parent working household with one person earning a earning, a living, you know, two car garage, a nice home in the burbs, right. Building a retirement fund welfare reform, uh, which forever deteriorated our ability significantly in the sector to meet the needs of families with lower incomes. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> facing systemic and situational poverty that was made during a time of relative wealth. Speaker 2 00:28:44 Right. Mm-hmm <affirmative> um, and now we have this attitude that right now, at this very moment, we need to make decisions based on revenue surplus, which by the way, we shouldn't have in the first place, because we have people going hungry and going without housing in this state and in this country, in which we have incredible wealth. And there is no excuse for a budget revenue right now. Yeah. Uh, surplus that is, but we, we tend to, then we see efforts to get rid of the income tax and, and give giveaways to wealthy individuals and corporations right now, rather than thinking about when the next recession hits. Right. Which it will, that's how Speaker 3 00:29:22 It might be here now, honestly. Speaker 2 00:29:24 Right. So, um, I, I'm just so grateful that our sector can come together regardless of what our particular issue areas or focus areas are. Mm-hmm, <affirmative> in a value centered way and that you, you know, you're really leading the charge in that, um, and, and drawing such a diverse array of stakeholders into shared action. So it's gonna be so critical going forward. Um, you know, and on that note, would you talk with us what your main source of pride is? Look, look back over the past couple years, what makes you most proud when you look back at your sector and what the chamber has accomplished alongside them? Speaker 3 00:30:08 I'm gonna talk for a minute to buy myself time <laugh> to answer that question. Um, generally speaking, since I arrived at the chamber five years ago, the thing I've been most proud about is how our sector has protected, preserved and advanced the health and humanity of the people of this community. When it's been under duress or demographic groups within our community have been under duress through weaponized legislation regulations, executive orders, and rhetoric. To me that's been the most effective thing that we've been able to do is, is fight against that and preserve that and protect that and speak out against that. Um, and that's not going to go away and the need for that is, is not going to go away either. Um, so I'm, I'm really proud of, of our ability to rally people together, to talk about our humanity, um, our shared humanity that, um, shouldn't have to be defended in that way, but it continues to need to be, um, more specific to COVID. Speaker 3 00:31:21 Um, I, I think the things that I'm most proud of have to do with, um, the work that our sector has done to vaccinate people and to overcome, um, uh, gaps that have existed in how we deliver services and care for decades, um, uh, being fully cognizant of gaps in healthcare access, depending upon the color of one's skin or their zip code and how hard people have worked to overcome that and eliminate that, um, within our sector, uh, I've been very, very proud of our members and, and how we've tried to support our members in, in that work. Um, I think that, um, that coupled with the, uh, distribution of masks and gloves and soap and sanitizer, and a lot of other things to help make people safer, um, our agencies have been on the leading edge of that in our community, working with partners, working with donors to, to make that happen and make those things pervasive and accessible to people I've been just tremendously, tremendously proud that that's been something we've been able to contribute to, um, that on top of just them continuing to do the work despite incredible strain, incredible trauma, incredible exhaustion. Speaker 3 00:32:39 I'm, I'm incredibly proud of them for that, but that's adding those elements of the work to everything that they've been charged with doing over the last two years. I, I think I'm most proud of that. None of them have closed their doors. They've all stayed in business and that's been because this community has ensured they had the money and the resources they needed to keep going and helping people. Um, but folding into their day to day work, um, under the duress of COVID under the fear of it, um, when we didn't know that much about it, um, but oh, you're also gonna be responsible for making sure this isn't spread and that people have what they need. I mean, our community has opened up its emergency management warehouse to our agencies so that they have the caliber of mask that they need. That's incredible. That's not happening broadly. It should be, but it hasn't been, um, there wasn't a penny of cares act or a R P funds specifically target for nonprofits, our city county, and yes, state prioritized our members, uh, and, and people outside of our membership in this sector to make sure they had the resources they needed to keep going. I'm incredibly proud of that. So there, that was a very long answer, but I'm, I'm proud of a lot of things and how we've kept going and kept people safe. Speaker 2 00:34:02 I share in your pride, I share in relief that we've all pulled together. And so much of our sector, our shared sector has been able to continue to be on the front lines. Um, you know, and it, however, we talk often about the merit crises that we were facing before March, 2020, right. How little recognition and widespread and long term sustainable support there was for appropriate responses and more importantly, uh, strategies to address those symptoms of the root causes. Yes. Uh, so, you know, sometimes I've, I'm sure that we can both admit that we get caught up a little bit in Des spa and see regret. Um, I would, I still sometimes just find myself praying for the advanced expanded child tax credit to make its return. Right. Some of those policies, as you alluded to earlier, that we thought maybe a year ago now might be permanent federal policy in this country that that was long overdue and most welcome, not only by our sector, but by families and Americans across the country, including right here in central Ohio. Right. Um, so, you know, when I get caught up in Des spot and see about those unfortunate failures that get caught up in the politicing of things and the moment and the eye, instead of looking forward to the storms to come, right. Um, I know I sometimes turn toward, uh, turn toward the, we can do this sentiment that you've shared, uh, throughout this, um, particular time in history, but what do you turn to for inspiration? You know, what renews your spirit helps you keep going in those dark moments? Speaker 3 00:35:47 A few things, um, at a base level, uh, as you know, we've been raising a toddler mm-hmm <affirmative> and, uh, that's been an incredible privilege and honor, and, and we have that ability to focus on him, um, when he's awake. Um, and that, that alone has been a centering source of joy and motivator. Um, at the same time, as, as difficult as it has been to, to raise a human amidst, all of this, um, I don't know how we would've done it without him. Um, that's one, um, two, it has been the ability to do something about my feelings about the world and everybody's feelings with whom I agree about the world. Um, if I were in my prior job in private practice, I would've been terminated many times over by now. Um, because I would've been frustrated with my inability to do something about the things that I care about that I think, um, merit urgent action. Speaker 3 00:36:51 And in this job, it's cathartic because I get to help the people that are doing that work. And there are days when I wish deeply that I could roll up my sleeves and be approximate with the people that are experiencing the harm, um, that, uh, that everyone is having to navigate and has been navigating long before the pandemic and, and unfortu, you will afterward. But I try to focus on this is the job that I have, where I can help all these organizations and approach it from that macro and God willing policy perspective to help as many people as quickly as possible. And I find comfort in that, that gives me a drive. Um, and I have that privilege. I sit behind a computer all day, um, whereas the people that I'm working for and the people that I'm, that they're serving, um, haven't had the privileges of, of doing what I've been able to do the last two years of being able to isolate and work, um, away from places where COVID spreads. Speaker 3 00:37:52 Um, and, uh, I've tried to use that privilege as aggressively as I can, and I wish I would've done better and wish I could do more and do more faster. Um, but, but those pieces give me comfort, um, on the hardest days. Um, and then the other has been just community, the community of people that I'm serving. Um, the people that I have gotten to know through Twitter, um, that share both the frustration with the state of things and the drive to make things better. You know, my friends and family, all of them, all of that's been in comfort too. I find relief in the occasional bit of exercise though. I haven't done enough of that. And, um, the occasional bit of food though, I've had way too much of that. Um, and, uh, even revisiting the things that I've enjoyed that have made me who I am that aren't that important, but have been important to me, just like watching college basketball and reading a book and watching a good movie and things that like, all of those pieces have been, have been part of it, of keeping me fresh. Speaker 3 00:38:55 But at the end of the day, it comes down to, um, my immediate circle, my, my wife, my son, my mother, um, my friends and, and just the chance to do something about it. Um, and channel my fury and my fear into something hopefully productive for a lot of people directly or indirectly mm-hmm <affirmative>. Um, uh, and yet, uh, there are days and moments when that is still woefully inadequate. Um, and as a society now, because of social media, because of the internet, because of the way we can engage with one another, we're that much more privy to the suffering that is out there. And, and the world has never been a place where there hasn't been a dichotomy between those who have, and those who not, and what they're going through at any given moment, but it feels that much more present, um, and the urgency to do something about that and alleviate that suffering is greater. Speaker 3 00:39:52 And I'm still trying to figure out how to, how to navigate that. And I'm, I'm cloaked in privilege in this kind of job. Um, because I get to sit behind a computer and work and I have job security and I can afford clothes and food for our son when I'm trying to help people that can't. And I, I know what we need to do to help those people. And I can't convince the people that can do something about it, to do something about it. At the end of the day, that's the most frustrating part of a role like this. Your job is to convince other people to make better decisions. And there are so many reasons why we can't and aren't, and haven't succeeded. And at the end of the day, I'm failing every day. Because if my job is to help agencies meet the urgent needs of their folks, I, I, I'm doing an right job. Speaker 3 00:40:41 I'm, I'm doing as best, the best job I can do to help those people as is my, my colleague bum and my colleague Cardell, we're, we're doing the best that we can and we're doing right. But if our job is to make systemic change, we we're failing every day cuz we haven't made it. And there has been so much momentum to, to make those changes, to get at the root. Um, and it's, it's very difficult. There's a lot of inertia and it's all intertwined as well. Um, and you can't make the changes just at the local level. They have to be aligned across levels of government. And we all know the reasons why that can't happen easily. Speaker 2 00:41:18 Yeah. We mean, I, I relate so much to that fear of the inertia, the apathy, the, just the inability to understand how there can be so many people still who need convinced of the need for empathy, right. And to care for their fellow humans. Right. Uh, so I share in a source of, um, escapism a little bit, but also find, um, myself refilling my tank with focusing on my son as well. And like just committing to, well, if I can at least help this one little person grow into someone who values empathy and sees other people as, as worthy of their resources, their friendship, their, their heart. Um, then I guess I'm, I'm contributing one little person to that army of empathy, but, uh, it is overwhelming to, um, just feel like you're wearing that burden on your shoulders. I get it like we, as, as warriors for, you know, social justice, right. Feel that weight every day and it compels us forward. And it also drives us down into the ground sometimes. Speaker 3 00:42:35 Yes <laugh> Speaker 3 00:42:37 Um, yes. Yeah. And, and yet there are a lot of us out there doing the work and we're privileged to be able to do it. Absolutely. Like you don't have to have the job where you do that nine to five either to be part of it. Um, so true. I didn't understand that before I had this role. I didn't understand it well. Um, there's so many ways you can contribute to the work mm-hmm <affirmative> and so many ways you can be helpful. And the barometer for me, isn't politics or philosophy or wealth it's are you a caring incompetent person? Mm-hmm <affirmative> and are you, do you have the, the luxury of dedicating some time to helping whatever that may be? And there are so many people for whom that is the case, and that is at the end of the day, what gives me hope? It's just, how do we activate and organize and motivate that huge majority of us that qualify and get some concerted, urgent action out of all of us. Speaker 2 00:43:35 Yeah. So in that vein, if you've listened to this episode, we, I think would encourage you to have the tough conversations as a starting point. Um, you know, talk about these issues, what's on your heart, uh, with those around you, with your colleagues, with your neighbors, with your friends and family, and let's continue to kind of veil ourselves in that armor that we need to head into the storm. If, if your raincoat is a, you know, a good book, some duke basketball, um, and some time with your toddler, then, um, you know, coat yourself in that. And, and I'm just so grateful that you and all of the leaders and staff and volunteers that you represent here in central Ohio and then the sector more broadly find ways to continue to willingly head into that storm and feel called to do so. So, so thank you. And Speaker 1 00:44:30 Thanks for your time today. Thanks Speaker 4 00:44:32 For having Speaker 0 00:44:32 Me Speaker 1 00:44:40 As we close out the month of may older Americans month, I wanna share just one quote from a recent series of surveys that we conducted with older Ohioans in partnership with the center for community solutions and advocates for Ohio's future, a 62 year old single woman with diabetes in Jackson county told us that before her snap emergency allotments, there were times she didn't pay bills because she needed food or she needed medicine, not a nice dinner. So she had to sacrifice, but now her pantry, freezer and fridge are stocked for the first time she called these allotments a godsend. And when they end with the public health emergency, she worries about her physical and mental health declining to read more stories like hers for yourself. Please check out our recent older adult food security [email protected] slash a RPA. We'll talk to you next time.

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