Tieu Ly, Program Manager for Felton’s Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Program is a passionate and dedicated advocate for the older adults that he serves. When he talks about the successes of Felton’s clients, his countenance lights up. Whether he is scheduling events or dancing with a Foster Grandparent at the annual Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon, his enthusiasm shines through.
The older of two boys in his family of four, Tieu was born in Vietnam. He remembers that at an early age, his parents taught him to be kind and humble. “One small act of kindness can mean the world to someone, as you never know what someone is going through. My parents have taught me to give respect and get respect. We treat others just as we want to be treated. My father was the eldest of 10 siblings. At a very young age, he learned to take on far more responsibilities than other children his age and has very strong sense of family values. My father has taught us to respect elders, value family, have compassion and work hard.”
Tieu’s family moved to the San Francisco Bay Area when he was five years old. After high school, Tieu studied industrial arts and graduated from San Francisco State University. His goal was to become a graphic designer, but he feels that fate led him to the nonprofit world.
“My interest and passion began after working for the YWCA, where I managed a community computer learning center, ” Tieu recalls, ”The center was located at the YWCA Apartments, a building with affordable senior housing in Chinatown. While I was in that position, I was able to utilize all my interests, skills and cultural and language background to connect and assist people. I worked with all the senior residents in the senior building, the children in the two preschool centers, located downstairs, after-school programs nearby and the Chinatown community. Through the computer center, I was able to not only bridge the digital divide but also to create many inter-generational project opportunities for the different age groups. I was especially happy when we received a grant for the inter-generational video we worked on, where older adults and elementary school students were involved in both designing and creating the content.”
“Before working for Felton, I worked for various nonprofit and community-based agencies in San Francisco. In addition to managing a computer center for the YWCA, I worked on operational/IT projects for the Equal Rights Advocates and supervised a Meals on Wheels congregate meals site serving 120+ daily in Sacramento. What attracted me to work for Felton are the programs and services that we provide. We are inclusive and embrace all ethnicities, age and challenges of our population.”
Tieu first worked for Felton from 2010-2012 and then returned to Felton in 2016.
“What I find most gratifying as a Felton employee is the opportunity to provide direct services to our communities and see the impact that our work has. The volunteer programs that we offer are really a win-win for all. Our volunteers benefit because they can stay connected, active and serve their community. Our host site stations benefit because volunteers add capacity to their team, so that they can support more clients and students. The most challenging part of my job is recruiting and retaining good volunteers who are dedicated and passionate about volunteer service.
“Felton’s work is exceptional for its mission to respond to human needs with the innovative services we provide, offering so many programs, servicing from youth, adult to older adults in multiple languages throughout San Francisco and the greater Bay Area.”
Felton’s Foster Grandparent Program offers a multigenerational avenue for developing meaningful relationships, deep connections and shared experiences that are long-lasting. Participants in our Foster Grandparent Program are adults ages 55 and older who offer support, love and wisdom to children and youth in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Senior Companions are limited-income, mobile seniors provide companionship services 15-30 hours per week to frail, isolated, and homebound seniors, ages 55 and older.
“Tieu is an exceptional manager of these large volunteer programs that require constant recruitment, training, and partnerships with host agencies, as well as volumes of ongoing and detailed reporting to a federal agency.
“On top of that,” notes Tieu’s Supervisor Senior Division Director Cathy Spensley. “He is constantly going above and beyond to support his volunteers in any number of ways they need. Now, with COVID-19, Tieu is taking on training these older adults, who have not been connected to technology previously, on how to interact virtually as ‘online buddies’, so they can provide mutual support for themselves, as well as other isolated seniors, in these challenging times. Tieu is embracing this challenge and starting a whole new area of innovative programming for the agency.”
When he is not working, Tieu enjoys spending time with his family. He especially enjoys experimenting with baking recipes, while listening to his favorite music, which he finds therapeutic.
As for a personal life motto, Tieu looks back to his parents’ advice, “Treat others just as you want to be treated. Give Respect, Get Respect.”
About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.
Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties.
Felton is named for its social services pioneer and executive director Dr. Katharine “Kitty” Felton who was called the ”conscience of San Francisco” and was committed to ensuring that children and families in crisis have access to social services and resources in order to help them build upon their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency. www.felton.org