Topics on Aging

By Juan Gallo

Celebrations and Borrowed Time: Reflections from the 2023 Red Gala

November 16, 2023

Red Gala 2023

The night of the 2023 Red Gala was a confluence of milestones for Heart2Heart. 

On one hand, the masquerade-themed event was a fun-filled celebration. We highlighted new partnerships and longtime supporters. We told the stories of seniors we serve. We commended the hard work of our volunteers. 

On the other hand, Nov. 9 marked the end of our earthly friendship with one very special senior, Malcolm Mcallister.

 

Saying Goodbye to a Friend

During my speech that night, I highlighted Malcolm’s relationship with our founder, Sean Stepelton, and our board president, Kim Kent. I explained how Heart2Heart is blessed by the continual support of these two people — through fundraising but especially by practicing the volunteering that they preach.

Over the years of volunteering at The Savoy at Fort Lauderdale, Sean and Kim both became very close with Malcolm. This was partly due to his bold and joyful personality. 

But I also think the connection was due to the way Malcolm served his fellow residents — almost like an undercover Heart2Heart volunteer working from the inside of the care center. 

The morning after the Gala, we found out that Malcolm had passed away — on the very night we had celebrated his connection with our volunteers.

It’s beautiful to know that Malcolm is at rest. We’re happy that he is no longer in pain and no longer suffering as he had been during his last months. 

However, the timing of Malcolm’s death highlights the urgency of the work we do. We serve people at the end of their lives, and they live on such borrowed time. 

That’s why we are even more thankful to be a part of Malcolm’s life.

The Savoy is hosting a memorial service at 2 p.m. today to allow his friends to come together and remember him. I know plenty of people will be in attendance to celebrate the good and faithful life that Malcolm lived. 

Making Giant Leaps for Seniors

Another key success we celebrated during the Gala was our partnership with Aging and Disability Resource Center of Broward County

I was excited to show how our new role within the federally-funded senior meal delivery program allows our patient advocates to connect with seniors who have asked for help with food. 

I highlighted how that partnership was a culmination of our efforts. At the Gala two years ago, we shared our vision for providing meals for seniors — and then started the Food for Hope program the following year.

At last year’s Gala, we talked about advocacy. This year, I was able to share how our patient advocates help seniors with a range of needs. 

It says a great deal about our network of support that we’ve been able to follow through with our goals and report successes, year after year. This year, I explained how faith has allowed us to make giant leaps into uncharted territory on behalf of seniors. 

I can’t wait to see how faith pushes our growth in 2024. 

Reflecting on the Milestones

The day before the Gala, I celebrated four years at the helm of Heart2Heart. Four years ago, it would have been big news to get 100 people at a fundraising event. 

We sold 210 tickets for this year’s Gala — with 171 people attending in person. I was so happy to see how far our support has come and how impressive our team of employees and volunteers has grown. The happiness and genuine joy in the room was palpable. 

In December 2019, I sat down with the board to create a 10-year plan, based on previous metrics and an assessment of the organization at the time. I wanted our goals to be realistic but also test our limits. We set our sights on reaching 10,000 seniors annually within the next 10 years. 

So far this year, we’ve served more than 7,000 seniors and trained 950 volunteers. 

And sure, we could pat ourselves on the back for being so close to hitting our goal in year four of a 10-year plan. But only God can be credited for growth that exceeded our expectations, and I give him the glory. 

Drumroll for our final fundraising numbers, please!

Our goal for the Red Gala was to raise a total of $155,000. We walked into the night with $94,920 in sponsorships and $3,300 worth of tickets sold. 

Our silent and live auctions raised $19,699 and raffle tickets for a premium basket of Apple products brought in $3,420. 

Those at the gala donated or pledged another $46,756… 

Bringing us a grand total of $166,595 raised on behalf of seniors! 

We are thankful for God’s provision and for all of your efforts to ensure we can help the seniors we meet in the upcoming year! 

If you missed the Gala and would like to join our efforts, please give us a call at 954-315-2218 or donate online. When you live on a fixed income, every dollar counts!
If you attended the Gala, we would love to hear from you! Click here to share your thoughts.

Read more about:
Juan Gallo
Juan Gallo is the CEO of Heart2Heart Outreach, where he oversees the mobilization of volunteers to provide hope, share love and restore purpose to the lives of the aging population across South Florida.

He also serves as a local pastor and as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University, where he is teaching a course on diversity and aging. Juan has a master’s degree in counseling and psychology and is a licensed mental health counselor intern.

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Juan Gallo

This blog is a frank conversation about what it means to age in our society.

I want us to consider what a wider range of diverse experiences when we talk about aging. I want to reflect on how we, as a community, want our neighbors and our mothers and fathers and our grandparents to live out their latter decades of life. I want us to consider each one of their voices as we strive to meet their needs.

Join me for weekly discussions about what it means to be a senior in South Florida and how we can and should respond to the growing needs of the aging population.

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