Bank of America finds a healthy partner in The Floating Hospital

As is common in the corporate world, Bank of America (BofA) has undergone its share of mergers and acquisitions, but one thing that has remained steadfast is its philanthropic focus on helping communities thrive.

“Committed to strengthening communities, we’ve always focused on multiple efforts to build a brighter future,” says Gail Harvey, vice president and community relations manager for the bank in New York City and Long Island. She cited the bank’s programs and partnerships addressing everything from workforce development to affordable housing to arts and culture.

But what was missing was healthcare.

“While we had a robust platform around basic needs, and still do, our support was predominantly around hunger and did not include healthcare. That changed early in the pandemic when we added the lens of racial inequality and looked at what communities of color had less access to,” she said, adding that the pandemic prompted them to seek out “who we could help the most – those who are most overlooked, underserved and underestimated in every way.”

It was in this context that Ms. Harvey came to know The Floating Hospital. The first introduction was through a donation of critical personal protective equipment, part of BofA’s outreach assistance at the height of the pandemic. Ms. Harvey said at first, she was surprised not to have heard of the clinic before, but as she researched potential healthcare partners, she found The Floating Hospital was the match she was looking for.

“We’re really trying to help build a culture of helping families and The Floating Hospital aligned with that mission,” she said. “It was appealing to know that it’s a place people could count on, come to and be at home in … a trusted source among people and the community.”

Ms. Harvey invited The Floating Hospital to apply for a grant, which was awarded in 2021 to support outreach and education efforts in family homeless shelters. Last year, BofA renewed its support with a grant of $500,000 over a two-year period. The new funding helps expand services anchored by the Good Health Shuttle, The Floating Hospital’s free shelter-to-clinic patient transportation service. Such support enables the fleet of vans to make more runs, deliver more patients, and cast a wider net over the most medically underserved neighborhoods.

It’s a place people could count on, come to and be at home in…a trusted source among people and the community.” Gail Harvey, Vice President and Community Relations manager, Bank of America
It’s a place people could count on, come to and be at home in…a trusted source among people and the community.” Gail Harvey, Vice President and Community Relations manager, Bank of America

“The most impactful programs meet people where they are and recognize there’s a variety of needs people have depending on where they’re coming from that contribute to their situation,” she said. “The Floating Hospital doesn’t just address the medical piece – it’s the workshops, health education, transportation – and all the things that go into helping the whole person that’s so powerful. There’s an interconnectedness: If you have a problem in one area, it can affect multiple areas – there’s a ripple effect.”

She said at Bank of America, local community relations teams are empowered to focus on the issues they see are most prevalent, and “in a city of 8.5 million, that’s the needs of individuals and families – making sure they have healthcare, food on the table, a quality education, a safe place to live and a living-wage job … we take a look at how we can help people not just live with dignity, but thrive.”

Ms. Harvey said the bank’s local foray into the healthcare space mirrors how it administers its other philanthropy: As the environment changes, so does the focus. When the bank sees a need to bolster community assets such as small businesses, the availability of green spaces, access to quality education and arts and culture, “We can be responsive in our giving to what’s going on at a given time.”

And this is where keeping the lines of communication open helps. In addition to virtual events, BofA conducts a community roundtable each year to hear from its boots-on-the-ground partners about what they are seeing and experiencing, while also giving them a chance to hear and learn from each other.

“Our decisions on where we can help have the most impact are being made in response to conversations with our partners. It’s very much about continual conversations with [those] on the front line to know the needs. We share your trials and tribulations, as well as the bright spots,” she said.

Floating Hospital President and general counsel Sean T. Granahan, who had a seat at that table, said he was pleased to see a large corporate bank be involved with direct service to individuals and families.

“So often large corporations have lofty goals like solving poverty, and don’t understand how important it is to give directly to people,” he said. “Our partners at Bank of America really understand what is needed on the ground and that our patient families need relief in the moment as well as help with their greater trajectory.”

Bank of America community volunteers, Paola Fuentes Hernandez, Isabel Baransky and Cynthia Ho at our Women’s Wellness “Day of Pampering” patient event.

This post featured in our monthly newsletter from March/April 2023.

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Journey to Good Health

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When Vegetables Were Unhealthy

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The Floating Hospital provides high-quality healthcare to anyone who needs it regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, immigration or insurance status, or the ability to pay. By providing unrestricted medical care in tandem with health education and social support to vulnerable New York City families, The Floating Hospital aims to ensure those most in need have the ability to thrive, not just survive.

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