Ben Thomases is the Executive Director of Queens Community House, a community-based nonprofit in Queens, New York, that provides individuals and families with the tools to enrich their lives and build healthy, inclusive communities.
Queens Community House serves more than 26,000 children, youth, adults, and older adults every year. Its mission is to provide individuals and families with the tools to enrich their lives and build healthy, inclusive communities.
Through a broad network of programs operating out of 39 sites in 14 neighborhoods, Queens Community House offers Queens residents a needed support system at every stage of life, helping them to develop the knowledge, confidence, and skills to change their lives for the better and become active participants in their larger community.
At Queens Community House, there is a large team of people — over 200 full-time staff and 300 part-time staff — and a lot of moving parts at Queens Community House.
And even with a team of more than 500 employees, more support proved necessary.
“My calendar is crazy,” Ben laughs. “There are a lot of priorities to juggle and a lot of interactions to coordinate with elected officials and senior government officials.”
“There are regularly scheduled meetings and then other things come up that are more urgent.”
And while Ben’s schedule can no doubt have hectic moments, his job continues to be rewarding.
“We had been looking for a solution to the executive system problem for a long time,” Ben says. “One of the things that’s very challenging about the operating environment — to be perfectly transparent — is most of our funding is restricted to programmatic uses.”
“We don’t have a lot of flexible administrative dollars to spend on things like administrative support, and I know that managing my calendar is not a full-time job. It’s a lot of work and it’s important, but it’s not a full-time job. Spending a full-time salary just doesn’t make sense. We have to be mindful of every dollar, very cost conscious.”
“So we had been looking for a high-quality, cost-conscious solution for a long time and had a lot of false starts. BELAY came recommended by a colleague and that’s how it came about.”
And then BELAY Virtual Assistant Aleisha Petri arrived.
Ben met with his Client Success Coordinator, Alex, and was able to jumpstart the process by providing her with an executive assistant guide.
“She was like, ‘Oh, this is great. We can do this,’” Ben remembers.
“Honestly, I had felt a little crazy because while managing my calendar is difficult and there’s a lot of complicated stuff, it’s not rocket science. And it was such a feeling of relief the way Alex conveyed this confidence of, ‘You know exactly what you want. This is making my job much easier.’
“[That brought] such a feeling of relief for me. Someone hears me.”
“What Alex did a great job of was understanding right away the personality type [in a future VA] that would make this relationship work,” Ben says.
“There are a lot of details in my head, and the shifting priorities are crazy. A few weeks ago, the Speaker of the House came for a visit to our community center on a two-day notice. It’s a constant process of figuring out the right balance.”
“Aleisha has been a very good fit. She is very responsive. She takes the guidelines very seriously.”
“What Aleisha has done has been incredibly important — for me and for us,” Ben says.
“Every aspect of this role is incredible and helps advance our priorities, and it’s a great, efficient use of our resources.”
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