Leveraging Skills-Based Volunteering to Promote Mental Health During COVID-19
As COVID-19 cases continue to climb across the country, many Americans are experiencing a mental health crisis too, especially healthcare and frontline workers. At East Boston Social Centers (the Social Centers), a nonprofit that provides afterschool programming, childcare, nutrition, and activities for the elderly, the staff were not exempt from the mental health tolls of the pandemic. Executive Director Justin Pasquariello noticed early signs of staff burnout, stress, and anxiety, but the organization did not have the resources or mechanisms in place to address them.
The Social Centers leadership turned to two partners for help supporting the mental and emotional needs of their employees: Common Impact, a national organization that builds nonprofit capacity through skills-based volunteering, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (Blue Cross), a community-focused health plan that provides high-quality, affordable healthcare to local residents. Blue Cross saw the opportunity to support the Social Centers through its 10th annual Service Week in September 2020, a skills-based volunteering event in partnership with Common Impact in which 2,800 Blue Cross employees supported 70 nonprofits across Massachusetts.
The skills-based volunteer team working with the Social Centers was tasked with addressing the critical challenge of how nonprofit managers can support the mental wellness of their teams in moments of crisis. After learning more about the Social Centers' true needs and unique challenges, the Blue Cross volunteers developed new feedback, communication, and training frameworks to help leadership support staff during the pandemic and beyond. “The East Boston Social Centers is the catalyst for a tight-knit, thriving and joyful community,” said Pasquariello. “This project will help us achieve that intended impact by better supporting our staff, moving us closer to our goal of being a top place to work.”
Access the full case study for more on this cross-sector collaboration, including an overview of the key mental health strategies and approaches the Blue Cross team developed.