Community advocacy and family therapy through a multicultural lens
Growing up on the south side of Chicago as the oldest of six children, Brenda Thompson never liked how low-income people were disrespected and disregarded. Inspired by her mother, Brenda founded E.M. Branch & Associates, Inc., a community social service agency belovedly known as “Branch” to fight against adversity in her local community.
Committed to helping people develop the tools they need to live a healthy life, Branch is truly a labor of love for Brenda’s extended family. Brenda works alongside her daughter, Nikia, both of whom are licensed clinical social psychologists working towards their PhDs in International Psychology and Organizational Leadership, respectively. Brenda’s son Steven serves as Billing Manager. And Brenda’s inspiration is still a fixture at the business—at 82 years old, her mother still comes to volunteer in the office three days a week.
The Thompson family is dedicated to strengthening services for its other extended family—the Chicago community they serve. Branch provides family therapy and behavioral services to underprivileged children, adults and families. They also offer clinical training for community members pursuing advanced degrees in social work or psychology, providing learning opportunities for tomorrow’s leaders in the social work field. “Clients want to see people who look like them,” Brenda says. “They want to feel like they can be understood.”
Thanks to a partnership between Accion and The Hartford through its Communities with HART program, Brenda’s business was able to expand access to quality Medicaid services in her community. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, they seized an opportunity to expand programming to meet the needs of clients who previously had no access to quality health care. With a business loan, Brenda hired a medical supervisor to service two new contracts that would bring more clients through the Medicare program.
Soon after, she was approached by organizations like Blue Cross-Blue Shield and Harmony Health, a health care company in Chicago, to develop a pilot program for their members. The business’ expansion brought Brenda to the White House in July, where Branch staff participated in a Minority Business Roundtable. By making critical connections with other participants, Brenda was able to focus on how to continue to strengthen and develop their business.
While her business steadily grows, she remains focused. “My mission in life is to serve the community I grew up in,” Brenda says.