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July 8, 2020
 
New Offering Helps Self Esteem Boston Modify Service Delivery
Self Esteem Boston
May 16, 2020 — Self Esteem Boston was putting the final touches on a new online learning center when the coronavirus pandemic hit, which, as it turned out, not only led the nonprofit to quickly reconfigure its regular services to a virtual format, but also created a potentially larger national market for its services.

"All of our clients are in lockdown and live together in transitional programs. Many can't leave the program, and our partner agencies can't get in," said Marion Davis, CEO and president of Self Esteem Boston, a Boston-based nonprofit that helps Massachusetts agencies provide services for at-risk clients through self-esteem education.

"Now, we're delivering 18 programs weekly at substance abuse treatment and transitional recovery programs via audio and video conference programs."

Delivering the virtual services was more than a matter of inviting people to a Zoom meeting. Beginning in mid-March, Davis, along with co-founder Jeri Levitt, the only full-timers at Self Esteem Boston, and two to four part-time staff, surveyed the nonprofits they serve to learn about their technical capabilities. Many, for example, had access to Internet service in their administrative offices but not in conference rooms where programs would be delivered. Others lacked laptop computers.

Flexibility on Self Esteem's part was key, as some client organizations could only handle audio conferences while others could Zoom. For several clients, Self Esteem created a video and uploaded it to YouTube to enable access.

"This has given us the opportunity to grow and do more," said Levitt, noting that her organization's response to the pandemic has bolstered the need for the new learning center. "We're finding we need to use the learning center more broadly than we had anticipated, as some clients don't have access to programming in their centers."

She continued, "Clients all across U.S. are in lockdown. People in the community may need services for themselves and their family that are not so easy to get right now. We wanted to make this material accessible for them, since many other agencies can't provide in-person services right now."

Building the learning center, which launched this past Wednesday, currently offers six interactive programs related to goal setting, priorities, life purpose, and other skills aimed at building self-esteem. Come September, the nonprofit plans to add seven new training programs related to nutrition education and wellness for people in recovery. The roll-out plan calls for promoting the center via targeted outreach to nonprofit associations, advertising and resource listings pages in nonprofit publications, and social media.

Last year, Self Esteem Boston delivered programs to 1,300 people, including previously incarcerated women, returning veterans, those suffering from substance abuse or domestic violence, and others participating in a variety of transitional programs.

"The pandemic made us look twice at the in-person experience and jump on an opportunity to continue to deliver our services," said Davis. "We make it available to people regardless of ability to pay, which is in keeping with our mission to help develop self-esteem, to hang in there during this time. We're continuing to do what we do but using a different mechanism."
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