The recent announcement of a merger between two Pleasanton nonprofits has led some citizens to question how the move will impact their community, causing a turnout of disapproving public comments at the latest City Council meeting.
Through the public forum, residents shared their displeasure about Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley and its services being absorbed by CityServe of the Tri-Valley, citing main concerns such as transparency, service demographics, future impacts on the city-owned Senior Center and the organization's motivation.
News of the merger, which had been under consideration since late 2021, first came to light publicly last month several days after a story in the Pleasanton Weekly spotlighting concerns raised by former employees and volunteers about SSPTV, its leadership instability, and the apparent loss of key services and staff.
The Pleasanton City Council meeting on Sept. 6 featured 14 speakers during public comment on non-agenda items criticizing the merger between the private nonprofits.
Jan Morrison, who manages the Hacienda Mobile Home Park for seniors, told the council about how the merger has affected those who live in the complex and said she had been elected to speak on their behalf. Mostly, community members who benefited from the resources felt blindsided by the sudden changes.
"I have 200 residents that have been asking me why their Senior Support has changed and gone to CityServe and how come they didn't have a say," Morrison said. "They don't think it's fair that they weren't consulted before they made any changes and there was no notice given. My people are very upset."
Barbara Will, a former SSPTV employee who worked as director of its Family Caregiver Program, described how the nonprofit was run several years ago in contrast with how the services are being handled now.
"We were a really committed group of people that really believed in what we were doing," Will said. "(They have now) taken a program that has run flawlessly for 40-plus years and are making a huge change."
One of the new criticisms as a result of the merger came from people concerned about Senior Support funds and its leased space at the Pleasanton Senior Center going to a nonprofit that serves other demographics including unhoused residents and other disadvantaged groups of all ages.
Lilian Bullock, Pleasanton resident with over 20 years of experience as an emergency room nurse, spoke about this concern to the council and audience members.
"I find the proposition of merging the unhoused into the Senior Support structure to be a grave disservice to our seniors," Bullock said. "I cannot see this merger as a positive or practical situation."
She continued, expressing how the merge could cause an "array of potential unpleasant, unsafe and even dangerous" scenarios for seniors. In addition to Bullock, comments regarding the adoption of resources for the unhoused community were plenty from other speakers at the meeting.
Other speakers raised questions about CityServe's religious roots and whether public taxpayer funds granted to SSPTV could be utilized by a faith-based organization. According to its website, CityServe says it aims to connect "a diverse network of churches and faith groups, nonprofits, businesses, schools, government agencies, community members and participants."
CityServe is among the nonprofits that has received grant funding from all three Tri-Valley cities on its own.
During the merger's transitional period, some residents questioned how SSPTV services would be adapted under the CityServe umbrella. A number of senior-related services that fell under SSPTV are now listed on the CityServe website.
However, in one case, the CityServe website as recently as last week advertised the Friendly Visiting Program as active and soliciting new clients and volunteers -- despite multiple sources telling the Weekly that SSPTV eliminated that program earlier this summer. The CityServe webpage listed Pam Silliman as the point of contact, which she said was a surprise to her considering she was laid off as the program's coordinator at SSPTV in July and has not been replaced.
The entire Friendly Visiting Program link was removed from the CityServe website as of Monday.
CityServe leadership have not given a comment in response to the criticisms brought up by public speakers at the council meeting, nor did they answer inquiries from the Weekly this week. Council members were precluded from responding to the speakers during the Sept. 6 meeting, under the Brown Act, because the item was not listed on that night's agenda.
When the merger was revealed last month, CityServe CEO Christine Beitsch-Bahmani said, "Our mission is to always assist residents by caring, coordinating and connecting those in need of resources and to mobilize volunteers in the community. We feel that this merger will allow us to continue doing what we've always done, but with a greater overall impact and an intentional reach into the older adult community."