All her life, Barbara Giannou has been active and independent.
Even being born deaf never stood in her way.
But when mounting medical bills made it impossible to afford more than $1,300 in repairs to her 16-year-old vehicle, Barbara found herself stranded without any reliable form of transportation.
It doesn’t help that she’s the last remaining member of her family.
Public transportation isn’t very accessible. The former neighborhood shuttle is no longer in operation, and the nearest bus terminal is more than two miles away from her apartment in Pompano Beach.
Even then, she doesn’t always feel comfortable on the bus.
“And Ubers and cabs are expensive,” Barbara said. “I’m trying to get by on $934 a month, and it’s not easy.”
At 74, Barbara still walks where she needs to go, but her options are limited. She can walk to Walgreens or the 7-Eleven, but the closest grocery store is a mile and a half away.
“I manage to get there,” Barbara said. “But it’s not easy.”
Water, juice and other heavy items are impossible for Barbara to buy when she has to rely on her own two feet to carry the items back home.
“I weigh 103 pounds and I can’t be lifting a lot of heavy things. When I was younger, I was like an ox,” she said. “I’m just not that way anymore. And at 74 years old, I shouldn’t be walking in the Florida heat.”
Despite her own challenges, Barbara regularly walks to a nearby church to volunteer with the homeless. As a thank you, the church gives her some of the extra food, so Barbara knows she won’t go hungry herself.
A powerful first impression
One day, the people at the church told her about Heart2Heart. That’s how she met a volunteer named Mark.
Barbara’s poodle has paralyzed back legs. At the time, the dog needed shots.
“It was very important that I get her to the vet, and my only other solution would have been to rent a car for the day,” Barbara explained.
She knew that not everyone likes dogs, so when she called Heart2Heart to ask about a ride, she promised that the dog would stay in the carrier.
The volunteer coordinator paired her with Mark, who even lives in her same neighborhood.
It was a perfect match from the start.
“He sat with me at the vet and he was incredible. Not everyone would do that, and that impressed me,” Barbara said. “I will never forget what he did for me that day.”
After that, once a week, Mark would drive Barbara on her errands.
Often, it’s grocery shopping. One time, she needed batteries for a watch that had been dead for months.
“He’s patient and accommodating,” Barbara said. “I don’t take advantage – I’m not that type of person. I just go locally, but he’s told me he’ll take me anywhere I want to go.”
One in a million
Unfortunately, Mark has to have surgery on his wrist, so he won’t be able to drive Barbara on her weekly errands for a while.
Leading up to the surgery, he told Barbara he didn’t care if he had to take her out every day. He wanted to make sure Barbara could get ahead on any errands she might need while he is out of commission.
Barbara said she hasn’t been able to find anyone as consistent or reliable as Mark.
“He’s kind and just one in a million,” Barbara said “You don’t find people who are willing to give their time like he is. He comes out in the pouring rain, he’s always on time, he’s dependable. You just don’t find that today.”
Heart2Heart is in need of more dependable volunteers like Mark. Learn how you can become one in a million for a senior like Barbara.