The Great American Senior Show

Heart2Heart Outreach with CEO/Executive Director Juan Gallo -- It's About People Who Care

July 12, 2022 Sam Yates Season 2 Episode 76
The Great American Senior Show
Heart2Heart Outreach with CEO/Executive Director Juan Gallo -- It's About People Who Care
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode of the Great American Senior Show, your grey-haired host Sam Yates goes on a heart-to-heart mission with South Florida's Heart2Heart Outreach.

CEO and Executive Director for Heart2Heart Outreach, Juan Gallo says his not-for-profit is helping seniors who are lonely, hungry, and those who just need a personal contact from someone who CAREs. 

The word CARE, when you spell it out, has a special meaning and is part of the overall Mission and Vision for Heart2Heart Outreach.  We also get a tantalizing tease about a new technology program using iPads that will be announced before the end of calendar year 2022.

It's all part of the Great American Senior Show's continuing mission to find new ways our nation's senior can receive care. 

Sam Yates:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to another exciting edition of The Great American Senior Show. I'm your gray haired host, Sam Yates. And today, I am fortunate enough to be going heart to heart with Juan Gallo and Juan is a very special person, because we are at the headquarters with that Heart to Heart mentioned a moment ago for Heart2Heart, South Florida Outreach. Juan is the CEO and Executive Director. Juan, Welcome to the program.

Juan Gallo:

Thank you, Sam, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Sam Yates:

I want to know a little bit about you. I think as anytime that the great American senior show goes on the road, building that relationship with our audiences is very, very important. Tell us about yourself.

Juan Gallo:

Yeah, absolutely. You know, just to give a brief recap on my past, I was born in South America, Colombia. I grew up here in Florida since the age of five, and I lived in the Tri County area. So Miami Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. I have a master's degree in counseling psychology, and I am an ordained minister. However, I've mostly worked in the secular world or just the corporate world, and been in the medical field for about 15 years. Before heart to heart, I ran Medicaid state programs for the state of Florida, North Carolina, and worked with you know, what we call self directed company out of Michigan, fifth largest FDA, out of Michigan. And for the last three years, I've been here Heart to Heart outreach to South Florida.

Sam Yates:

And I found out about heart to heart through the elder Services Resource Network. I'm very fortunate to be a member of their board of directors. And as I think we were looking at at an application perhaps from your organization, and the more I read, the more I investigated, and the more I said, wow, these people are making a big difference. So I reached out right away. Tell us about heart to heart.

Juan Gallo:

Yeah, heart to heart was founded 12 years ago by a gentleman named Sean steepletone. He's one of the trustees of the Stasi Foundation, which is a very well known philanthropic family here in Fort Lauderdale. But Shawn played college football, and in one of his summers back home, he interned at a raft marrinson ALS, which, which is a local owner of an assisted living facility here. And so the way Shawn would tell the story is that he was surprised, right that when he left, that so many of the seniors were somewhere crying to see him go back, you know, and it really kind of stuck with them the whole experience. So when he, when he graduated college, he said, you know, what's a good business for me to get into, and South Florida having such a high senior population, he thought about seniors, but soon after that business plan became more of a passion and became more of a philanthropic. And so we've been around for 12 years. And we have what we call a social emotional model of care. And care is our acronym for how we serve, which I'm sure you know, we'll get into more later. But that's that's the brief history. And indeed,

Sam Yates:

we are going to get into what that care means. And it is an acronym, and folks can be sort of guessing as we build up to it. But the story you were just telling was a people story, as the more that I find out about heart to heart, I find that people capitalized, underline double scored, is what it's all about.

Juan Gallo:

Absolutely, yeah, we actually have, what we call in our motto of care is that we although we serve so many seniors every year, you know, for example, last year, we served about 2400 Seniors, our most important number is one. So that individual person, that individual relationship from volunteer to person. So there really is kind of that person centered focus, and it is about people

Sam Yates:

with that thought. And I can do this statistics, and I think our audience is very familiar because I talk about it all the time. 10,000 people become senior citizens a day, day and that's some staggering numbers. If you think about having 60 million plus senior citizens here in America, isolation kills. We found that out during the pandemic, but many times our seniors are alone, isolated, afraid and and no one comes knocking on their door until it's someone from your organization.

Juan Gallo:

He absolutely one of the I mean that the one of the things that I think has changed even ours perspective, although we knew that isolation was a silent killer, you know, the pandemic really highlighted that in so many ways. Before the pandemic, our flagship program was to visit people, mostly seniors. And I say mostly seniors, because a lot of there's different types of centers that we go to, we call them care centers. And there's a little bit of a learning curve, there are people in care centers that are not necessarily seniors, because it can be a long term care center. But the statistic that we use the most is that anywhere between 60 to 65%, of a person, of people who live in a nursing home or a care center of sorts, will never receive a visitor from a friend or a loved one ever again, once they're placed and one of these facilities,

Sam Yates:

and we don't like to use the word institutionalized, but I have people ask me, why are the doors locked? Why are they locked in? And there are reasons for that. I mean, it could be a memory care facility where you don't want someone wandering away. But in many cases, your statistics point to a very troubling thing that they are alone. And without someone like your organization, they continue to be alone.

Juan Gallo:

Yeah, and I think you're right, I think there's a historical sense of that word, we went from institutionalized describing people with developmental disabilities to describing seniors and places. And then we went to a brick and mortar type of verbiage. And now for sure, there are justifications for lock ins when we're talking about memory cares, right dementia, and, and Alzheimer's. And some of the a lot of the centers that we visit will have both and so you know, you'll go to one section that seemingly seems more open and then to another section where you'll need a keypad. And enter that reason, my my professional opinion is that thankfully, I think that we're going to see less and less brick and mortar buildings in the future. Even though we are having more seniors retired daily, what's happening is in 2018, our Medicare Center for Medicaid services federal fund, they use more than 50% of their budget to allocate towards home community based services. And that's the first time that's ever happened in the history. So we are seeing where more funds are going towards keeping people at home, and it is the majority of the people now. So there's some hope there too, I think you'll still have always that brick and mortar building, but there's some hope that there won't be as many in the future.

Sam Yates:

And we are seeing a lot of federal funds in the pipeline even more. So in the federal pipeline, post COVID. For that aging in place component, I work actively with quite a number of builders associations, and one of my missions in working with them is to say, Mr. Builder, you don't necessarily need to be building totally for the millennials and others, we have an aging population, they may have their own asset, but they need to have that home modified so that they can age gracefully in place.

Juan Gallo:

That's great. Yeah. Aging, Grace, aging in place. And graciously we call aging and dignity is actually just taught a course at Trinity International University as an adjunct professor, they, they've asked me to write a course on aging and dignity. What we did was we took the idea of aging in dignity and, and blended it with the idea of diversity specifically in South Florida, and how that affects different race groups, different culture groups, different religious groups amongst the elderly, and even the hot topic now, the LGBTQ seniors, because we're seeing a lot more of that now. And how do we serve them in a way that would dignify how they age,

Sam Yates:

knowing that you're going to be doing that rest assured you're going to hear me knocking on your door to to insert some of that expertise into the various Builders Association? Yeah,

Juan Gallo:

I don't know. And it's definitely not you know, for us, we're a faith based organization. So, you know, for us even saying that out loud, right. For some people, it's a bit of a shock. But the message that we would want to communicate is that we think everyone should have the ability and the right to to live an age, how they should write, regardless of you know, who they are and what they believe. And we're just there to help them and serve in the best way we can.

Sam Yates:

We're all people and I like to use the word now because it's going to segue in. We are all people and we should all care. Absolutely. Let's talk about care.

Juan Gallo:

Sure, yeah, care is if you look at our vision, our vision is to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the aging population. But the way we do that, which is our mission is that we do that by mobilizing volunteers to care. And so care is connect, advocate, respond and engage. And that is our social emotional model of care. Some people would even say social, emotional, spiritual model of care. And the way we do that is we connect churches to people, right? connect, connect churches, to seniors, connect people in the church to seniors, we advocate on behalf of the senior. So we have a person centered model of care, which means that when we go to a seniors home, or when we talk to a senior on an iPad, or when we go to see them in person, we don't just assume that you know that they want to play bingo, or get a haircut or get their nails done, but rather, Hey, how can we how can we spend time with you today? Or how can we help you today? Or do you even want us here, right? The other thing is that we respond, we respond to the need of everyday seniors, we try to stay on top of what's needed the most. So through the pandemic, it was a catastrophic time for seniors, and it kind of still is, so we're responding in two ways were responding to the immediate need, and were responding to the sustainable need long term. Right.

Sam Yates:

And and I think that, seeing when I walk into the office here, and I see your staff wearing the t shirt with care on it, it is something that they believe right to the core.

Juan Gallo:

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it's something that we've integrated into everything we do. We live and breathe care. It's definitely a part of our, you know, of our of our ethical values. And, you know, it's something that we, you know, it's just, it's a common, it's a hot word, right in the office, we have the T shirts, we have everything in our website, he talks about it are all of our volunteers, no, and a lot of what we do, too. So to give you just kind of a one off, you know, we have what we call Carebears. You know, so everything we everything we do we try to, you know, we try to, you know, incorporate that idea. So we have little teddy bears that we take to places as kind of like an arts and crafts, for families and some church or even some companies to get involved that they're not really sure if they can go to a care center, because they don't know what that would be like, or maybe a Care Center shut down. So we have them stuffed bears. But then the bears will have like T shirts that we put over them, and they'll have little hearts. And they'll say care. So we call them Care Bears. So it's definitely a part of our DNA.

Sam Yates:

It's a wonderful program. But it takes volunteers. I know that when I look at any organization that does what you are doing, or they attempt to do it. They can't do it without volunteers. How do you get your volunteers?

Juan Gallo:

That's a great question. We are primarily a volunteer driven organization to that. And we are a staff of five, which you met. And we also partner with local entities like in this case, CareerSource, Broward, who have given us an additional two employees for the summer. And they'll work 30 hours a week for the next two months. So right now we're a staff of seven. But on a given year, we will train about 200 volunteers, but 700, between seven and 800 volunteers will pass through our doors. And what that means is that 200 of them have been specifically trained by us, they've gone through the fingerprint process. But the others are people who have either dropped something off at a Senator who have volunteered with us but haven't gone to the, to the full gamut of that. Or maybe they've been a part of maybe a Christmas, Carolyn. Now the way we recruit and retain our volunteers is that we go to different churches, we go to small businesses and large businesses. And we tell them about the need. So we educate, and then we recruit from there. And we work I would say primarily churches and youth right now our our biggest kind of funnel of volunteers.

Sam Yates:

But we hope that you share this program with as many of those people as you can, so they get a better understanding. But if someone right now is listening, and they understand, wow, this is something important. How can they contact you?

Juan Gallo:

That's great. We've made it so simple. Right in the beginning of the pandemic, we realized that with the amount of volunteers that we train, there was no way that we weren't going to be able to keep doing this safely while social distancing Just because of the many shutdowns that were happening, plus, we also realized that you know, this type of program and what we do could be scaled on such a large level that it can really be done anywhere, right in the United States, with, you know, under the covering of heart to heart, that's what we would hope. So what we did was we added a portal on our website. So if you go to heart, the number two Heart to Heart outreach dot o RG, and you look at the top right hand part of our webpage, it's nice and big for you and bold letters. And it just says login or sign up. And really, if you wanted to volunteer with us right now, and let's say you're in Orlando, or Tallahassee or even South Florida, you would just go in there, and it would take you to three simple steps, one, you would fill out a volunteer application, two, you would go through our training. So there's about 10 to 12, one minute, one minute and a half videos, then we'd do a little quiz at the end to make sure that you, you know, you paid attention through it all. And then the third thing is it would have you set up an appointment for fingerprints. And just like that, you've become a volunteer.

Sam Yates:

Amazing. So if you're listening to you right now, please go to the website, heart to heart

Unknown:

outreach dot org

Sam Yates:

and upper right hand corner, login if you're a member, but more importantly, to sign up to become a volunteer. And and then the outreach can be multiplied and, and all of those that do it, you become literally an ambassador to our seniors and others who need care, because there are others out there. And to that end effect. I know that you have volunteers and you have a board of directors, what about people who want to financially support you?

Juan Gallo:

Yeah, financially support, there's a couple of different ways, obviously, you know, we as being a 501, C three, we solely depend on the generosity of people. And the bulk of how we are funded are by private donors. So we definitely have some some grant funding for some of our big programs, but we really depend on on you the people, right the the people who are in the community funding. So there's, there's a couple ways you can go right to our website, our website is what we call SSL secured. And we have some other ways that you can give, we have something called harness anyways, the website makes it very easy for you as a floating donate button. But to understand that better, one of the ways that you can give is what we call the 411. campaign. So we call it for seniors, one cause right for one person, and that causes to serve seniors. So we believe that if we can get a huge number of people, right, our first kind of goal is, is 100. People giving $4 a month, right for one senior one purpose, and that is to obviously, you know, minimize isolation that we can, we can do a lot more. So what this happens is it goes into a fund. And when there's what we call one offs, I'll give you an example. A few months ago, we were in a Care Center, and we met a gentleman who was in his 70s only spoke Spanish was here from I believe Venezuela, and his name was TJ animal. And thankfully, I was there visiting one of the directors and they said, Can you help us translate? I speak Spanish. And I noticed that he was not wearing any shoes. And I said, this is odd, why isn't he wearing shoes? And they said, Well, he came here this way. This is a more of a lower income center. And, you know, suddenly was I spoke to a gentleman Spanish. And to make a long story short, he needed shoes, right? So I was able to come back to the office, you know, we had funds in the 411 initiative and went to the store, bought them some shoes, and this man was so grateful tears, tears in his eyes. And it just turned out that he lost his other shoes and transport and they were working on trying to get them some more. But you know, a lot of care centers aren't set up to buy certain things right for people, right? It's they come in with what they have, and there's a certain budget or a fund. And then this gentleman was just alone with no family. And you

Sam Yates:

also help with food for those who are going hungry.

Juan Gallo:

Absolutely. You know, one of the things that, you know, the pandemic really highlighted was the ability for people to leave their home, even if they have the money to get food. There's a lot of people who who have the money and are isolated and can leave. Maybe they're vulnerable. Maybe it's dangerous for them. There's so many different situations and then there are people who meet both of those criterias not only can they not leave, but they're low on funds to get money or low on funds to get help. seafood. So what we did was we spoke to a local foundation called StrikeForce, we applied for a grant. And they said, We'd really love it if you kind of collaborated with another, you know, one of the philanthropic people in the community. So we call John offer doll, who's a retired Miami Dolphins player, and in a good friend, and he's just been amazing. And he owns offered dollars off the grill. And so we're now delivering for the next 10 months to 50 Seniors 10,000 meals, I know sounds like 10 1000s a lot. But it's for 10 months, it's five meals for every senior, five days a week for the next 10 months. And the best part about this meal program, is the meals important, but it's really a way for us to knock on the seniors door, bring them the meal, and then not just drop it off, ask a few questions. And what we do is we go through the UCLA loneliness scale. So it's three questions. And depending on how lonely that senior is, we prioritize follow up visits. And so that meal turns really an into an opportunity to come back and say, hey, you know, how was that meal? The other part about the meal program food for hope is that they are fresh meals are freshly made, they're healthy. And that's important for our seniors as well.

Sam Yates:

A little birdie told me you also have a food fund

Juan Gallo:

challenge. Yes, yes. Yeah, we do have a food fun challenge. So the grant that we received was for $69,000. And unfortunately, with the inflation, especially here in South Florida, being the most expensive state to live in right now in many various different ways. That price. So we were we were funded at 69,000. But we really need 99,000 to run this program. And so yeah, so we have a donor that has said, You got to you got a gap of $30,000. We're willing to put up 15. And so we're asking, in some people, maybe one or maybe a multiple amount of people to step in and say, hey, well, we'll do this

Sam Yates:

amazing that we have such reach out into the community. And one of the things and I'm running a little short on time. So I have to ask, can you come back again in the future?

Juan Gallo:

Absolutely. I would love to right. Yes. iPads, iPads, yes. Okay. iPads is somewhat of an unfolding story still. In the pandemic, we we went to the store immediately when the governor you know, shut down visitation, rightfully so, to protect our seniors, we said, you know, what's the best way for us to get in? We call the couple of care centers, they said, we said, how can we help, some of them said virtual reality. Some of them said headphones, but most of them said, if you can somehow get them to see their family, and your volunteers to spacetime will be so great. So you know, called Apple Apple was expensive. You know, we went to Best Buy me and one of our board members who's a friend, and we said, how many how many, you know, Amazon Fire HD tablet, so you have so well, you know, we might have 60 in stock. Great, give us 60, you know, and then we went home and Edie and my kids sat there manually programming. Well, you got some donors to pitch in. And the next thing you know, we have distributed 150 tablets. And then earlier actually, late last year, towards the end of last year, we got a phone call from a foundation, who was very generous and said, How can you step this up, and we said we can do iPads? Great. So but the iPad is really unfolding, because what we're doing with the iPad is something that has not been done yet. And I can't I can't say too much about how they're going to showcase it, but it will be showcased on a national digital technology conference later on this year. But basically, what we've done is we've taken 250 iPads. We've locked them down completely. We've uploaded them with with different apps. But the coolest part about it is is that we've worked with two other companies called BFA in jamp, and Apple, and we've bypassed a zoom protocol on the back end of zoom. So that a senior all they need to do is no a phone number or an email, which most of them do. And if you have the zoom app on your phone, they can call you directly and what will happen is you'll get a text message or an email that says a seniors waiting to talk to you connect now. And if you click on that, it'll automatically pop up like zoom FaceTime without sending any links taking the guesswork out for you. And for the senior. The best thing is that Tip a compliant. And so it can be used by multiple seniors, all they have to do is shut the iPad off. It resets completely erases all the information that's on there. And it automatically reconnects, and it connects to the Wi Fi, almost as if it was your iPad the whole time.

Sam Yates:

I have an idea. I'm not going to share it with our audience. I'll share it with you offline, because I know that what you're talking about also has some components that we will not share now, but I'll share some thought with you if you will share with me when it is an opportunity to do so more details about

Juan Gallo:

absolutely yeah. And for us that you know, the details are very forthcoming. But for the technology companies, they actually said to us that they tried doing this some time back and Georgia to another organization and didn't quite launch. But thankfully, we have the funding. We have the iPads, they have been distributed. Almost all of them have. And we're starting to make connections already. So it's amazing.

Sam Yates:

Amazing. Well, I mentioned that we were running tight on time, one more opportunity for people to reach out and epsilon Tech with you. How can they do that?

Juan Gallo:

Yeah, they can call the office directly 954-315-2218 They can go right to our website and communicate with us through their by filling out a form or they can just write us an email at info at heart to the number two Heart to Heart outreach dot

Sam Yates:

Juan Galo CEO, Executive Director, Heart2Heart o RG Outreach.org And we urge everyone to reach out and touch base with you and become part of this amazing, amazing program that is making a difference in the senior community to today. Thank you for being here with us. Thank you, Sam. We appreciate it. And we look forward to having one back in the future. In the meantime, until our next episode. I'm Sam Yates, your gray hair and host of the Great American Senior Show. And that's the way our program ends. Thank you