It’s not the year I had anticipated when I moved here in 2019 to lead an organization that serves our most vulnerable citizens. As we wrap up this crazy, surreal, unpredictable mess called 2020, I don’t want to diminish all that has been lost during the pandemic — more than 5,000 Hoosier lives, jobs, school and business closures, and so much more. It’s been a devastating year, but I want to focus today on what we’ve learned.
Through tragedy and loss have come shining examples of the human spirit.
We had to learn quickly that the way we were accustomed to working was no longer possible. Our care managers, options counselors and direct service staff could not risk meeting clients in person and, literally overnight, went virtual. We learned that by being nimble, flexible and solution-focused, we still could achieve our goals and meet the needs of people who depend on us for their well-being.
As loneliness levels reached an all-time high, we learned just how devastating social isolation can be. It’s not just about being alone; rather, isolation impacts one’s physical, mental and cognitive health and carries the same risk as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. In response, we enlisted staff and volunteers to make weekly calls to the elderly and homebound to check in on them and make sure they are okay. Something as simple as a phone call can make a world of difference in someone’s day or life.
Collaboration is nothing new at CICOA, but community partnerships rose to a new level when the pandemic began. Organizations came together in a way I’ve never experienced, as we worked side by side in response to this unprecedented public health crisis.
The Indy Hunger Network, of which CICOA is a member, met weekly and expanded its network statewide to ensure people did not go hungry. Our philanthropic community—including the United Way of Central Indiana, Central Indiana Community Foundation, the Central Indiana Senior Fund and Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust—granted emergency funding to help meet community need. With this funding and your donations, CICOA has provided additional meals for homebound seniors to cover not only weekdays, but also weekends and second meals as needed.
As this year comes to an end, we may feel damaged and bruised, but we are not defeated. We’re still standing, still serving, still believing in our cause and our community. When a vaccine is approved and the virus spread declines, we will move forward together with greater purpose and unity. Since mid-March when the pandemic shut everything down here in Central Indiana, I have closed weekly company emails with the same message that I now share with you:
“Strive to make today better than the last, continue to provide an exceptional experience to those you serve, and remain CICOA Strong!”
As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.