Last week we got Apartment #3 moved from Post to Belara. The movers came on Wednesday. Bob and Mary unpacked and set up on Wednesday. Mary & Brad finished the set up on Thursday. Then they went down on Friday afternoon to hang all of the pictures, etc. and install the washer & dryer. And a new care giver moved in on Saturday. He is a gentleman, probably late 50’s, whose wife got a liver transplant last week. When he arrived at the apartment on Saturday, he had been sleeping in a chair in the hospital for eight nights. He was flat worn out! So I encouraged him to sleep at the apartment that night and he assured me he would.
The only hickups in this move were two evenings of WAITING. Thursday it was for Comcast, who arrived around 9:00 p.m. and the technician was there until after 10:00 p.m. Friday it was waiting for two recliners to be delivered, which happened around 8:00 p.m. Brad got them unpacked and put together. And then we headed home. DONE!
We had originally planned on doing the move on Saturday, but we got an email from one of the social workers at Piedmont asking if we had an available apartment “at the end of the week.” So we moved everything up a few days to ensure we had a resident right away. So all of the apartments are occupied now.
Late last year, Mary had lunch with her friend, Logan Vaughan, who gave her a fabulous reference that she thought would benefit the foundation. As a result, Bob & Mary met with Beth Concepcion, Assistant Provost and Director of the A_LAB at Oglethorpe University. She introduced us to a public relations class taught by Kate Keib to students who have a particular interest in non-profits. She agreed to use our foundation as a “case study” that five of her students would study.
Fast forward to the beginning of the semester in January. We were contacted by our five students: Connor Bollinger, Caleb Blakley, Julissa Canas Escobar, Manuel Portillo and Johnathan Feibus. They conducted a phone interview with Mary to get a general idea of what our foundation is all about. Each one of them had a specific topic: Partnerships & Supporters, Social Media, Internal & External Environments, Directors & Executives and Finances and Fund Raising. It was a fantastic interview, which was absolutely brimming full of youthful enthusiasm!
Early in March Bob, Mary & Brad met them for lunch at . YUM! Once again we were so impressed and pleased with their enthusiasm for the foundation. They asked a lot of questions, as we got to know each one of them in a more personal way.
They are working on two things as we speak. One is a press release whose subject will be the opening of Apartment #6. The other is a document whose subject will be our four new Board of Directors members. When we receive the final products, we can use them in any way we see fit, such as through social media or the press (i.e., TV or newspapers) or sharing with future investors. The possibilities are endless.
At the end of the semester, the group will present a final report on the foundation to their class and we will attend. Stay tuned!
At our BOD meeting on January, we had four potential new board members join us. They introduced themselves to us and all current members introduced themselves to the new people. The great news is that all of them have agreed to join the board. If you are curious about who they are, here goes:
Cynthia Elery – She is one of our former care givers! Her husband had a double lung transplant and they lived in Apartment #2 for at least two months. We became very good friends and she has become a great supporter, especially with her unique ability to raise funds.
Nik Erramilli – Nik is an attorney in his own firm. The process of getting him on board was a year-long project! He thoroughly vetted us. He was recommended to us by Peggy Barrett, another BOD member. She knew that he had a heart for non-profits.
Phil Graiser – Mary met Phil at at networking event and they connected immediately. Phil is an organ donor. And he is the President of Comforting Arms, an organization whose goal is to provide individuals and families with the compassion and support they need as family members age. In addition, his daughter is a transplant nurse at Piedmont.
Andy McMillan – Andy is a SVP at Gallagher & Founder of the EPIC Leadership Group. His expertise lies in the insurance business and the best way to describe Andy is “salesman extraordinaire!” His theory: “you don’t get if you don’t ask!” Music to our ears.
IN ADDITION: Before our meeting began, Britt Bentley arrived to give us the news that he and Mindy would be going “on leave” for a little while. He found out that he needs another heart transplant. So he will begin the evaluation process and, hopefully, will receive a new heart within a reasonable time. Our prayers will be with him. And when he is feeling well again, he and Mindy will be welcomed back with open arms! (Mindy has agreed to continue doing our accounting work during this time. Mary can’t say enough thank-yous!)
I am WAY far behind on reporting Apartment #5. We opened it on December 1, 2019 and we had a patient and her care giver move on on the 4th. This one is located at Belara Apartment Homes, where we have three more apartments.
Currently we have a baby patient and her mommy living here. The baby had a liver transplant and traveled a bit of a hard road in her recovery. But she is now “at home” in the apartment until she fully recovers. During the time she was in the hospital, her mommy never left her side, but her dad and siblings stayed in the apartment over the weekends. This makes us happy. Not only are we accommodating the patient and care giver, we are making life easier for the rest of the family. And that’s a good thing!
We have begun a fantastic relationship with someone who is going to play a very big part in our foundation going forward, particularly in the area of financial planning. He is a friend of Brad’s. His name is Jim Fountain. Jim works for the Business School at Emory University and his professional background is in real estate. Brad and Mary met twice with him to go over our business plan and to explain to him our vision going forward. Jim grasped the vision IMMEDIATELY! And he has jumped in with both feet. Our third meeting included Bob, who had developed a very preliminary cost-out plan for our stand-alone transplant house. Jim had studied our business plan and Bob’s report extensively and had thought about all of our verbal conversations.
We get very excited when we talk to him. And this is the reason: to find someone who truely “gets” where we want the foundation to go, is like discovering gold! He came to our last lunch with information about available apartment properties in Atlanta. So we fully discussed all of the possibilities for the stand-alone, including starting from the ground up or buying an existing structure and doing a major remodel.
This particular conversation ended with Jim saying he would do more research on existing structures (within 4 miles of the Emory and CHOA) and that he would set up a meeting between the four of us and at least two banks.
We are totally aware that we are just beginning the “baby-step” phase of our plans. But with Jim working with us, particularly with his extensive knowledge of real estate and finances and with his enthusiasm, we will, before we know it, be moving on to another phase. Like the picture at the front of this post shows, everything has to fit together like a giant puzzle…one piece at a time! We just set the first piece!
Life is exciting!
Over the last couple of weeks, Mary and Brad have visited our Transplant Social Workers at Emory, Piedmont and Children’s Hospitals. These people are the direct path to our care givers and patients. They recommend our apartments to them and when necessary, handle the paperwork in regards to the Georgia Transplant Foundation. With them we could not exist.
We took them lunch and did a presentation that showed pictures of the living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens and bedrooms of all five apartments. They have told us that the most frequently asked question by the transplant families when they are told about the apartments is, “what do they look like?” So we gave them printed copies of the presentation so they can show the families “what they look like.” In every case, we had great discussions with them. We are always interested in their input. We appreciate it when we get it and we take their comments to heart. We ended our time together by showing them our new video (thanks Billy & Lori). We explained that the video is now available on youtube, so their patients could easily take a look.
Are you interested in what is the hardest part about these lunch meetings? Well, here goes….finding our way from the parking lot to the meeting room! These hospitals are an incredible maize of buildings and hallways (and elevators!). We always request that someone meet us to lead us through. Without a leader, Brad and Mary would be wandering through the halls of these hospitals to this day! (See the picture, above. That’s just Piedmont. Our end goal was Building 105 and I’m happy to report that we got in and out without incident!!)
We love our Social Workers. Our care givers, especially, refer to them as their “angels on earth.” To us they are everything!
SO MUCH has happened to our foundation in the last couple of months. We have summarized all of this with “2019 Is Going To Be A BIG Year.” We have formed partnerships with a number of organizations: Oglethorpe University; Earle and Cindy Holmes of the Georgia Cardinals, a Developmental Professional Football team; The National Christian Foundation; Richmond Honan Development and Acquisitions, LLC; and Pencor Construction. And lastly, Jim Fountain of Emory’s Goizueta Business School, who will be helping us with our financials.
Because of the generosity of Billy Hong and Lori Geary, we now have a fantastic marketing tool….a video!
Another thing that is happening, and this has been a year-long effort, we are strengthening our Board of Directors. No current board members are leaving, we are just adding to our bank of expertise.
To say this in a normal kind of way, always aware that this is God’s foundation and everything will be in His timing and in His way, we are moving from a “mom and pop” organization (literally!) to the next phase of our development. Our goal for 2019 is to open five more apartments, which will make our total inventory ten. In 2018, we ran at 94% occupancy, which speaks to the need for what we are doing. We met the most incredible people in 2018 in the form of transplant patients and care givers. We have had the privilege of serving a total of 30 families since we opened our first apartment. The need is great and we have been able to fill that need.
We are so excited about what lies ahead for us in 2019. “It’s going to be BIG!”
We owe thanks to many, many people for many, many things, but we would like to single out our friend Dennis Terrell. We were caught between a rock and a hard place this week when we were setting up Apartment #5. The mattress company failed to deliver a box spring. That might sound like a small thing that could be rescheduled, but that wasn’t the case. We had a transplant patient and her care giver ready to move in the next day. ENTER DENNIS…He has been so good to us over the last couple of years by using his pick up truck to move items for us from stores, estate sales, garage sales, etc. So I emailed him asking for his help. And this trip was a LONG one for him. We were asking him to pick up a box spring in Cumming to take it to North Druid Hills, probably an 80-mile round trip. Well, Dennis’ servant’s heart kicked into action and he made the move for us, saving the day! That servant’s heart is BIG and we are so appreciative!
Christmas is coming and some of our patients and caregivers will be living in the apartments, their homes-away-from-home, recovering from their transplant surgeries. We like to add a little Christmas joy, hoping that they will turn on the tree lights, sit back, and relax, and make the best possible Christmas under the circumstances. Along with the trees, we have a couple of other touches, and it is our hope that they will be fortunate enough to have friends and relatives visit, when possible. We love our residents and we know, without a doubt, that they would rather be at home for the holidays. But since that isn’t a choice shortly after surgery, we try to bring as much happiness and joy to them as we can.
Last week we welcomed our 20th transplant family to one of our apartments. 20th!! The patient is a gentleman who has received a new liver and his caregiver is his wife. When I was showing the wife and her sister around the apartment, one of them said, “you must be a Southerner!” I replied, “no, ma’am, I’m not, but I’m also not a Yankee! I’m from the Pacific Northwest.” Her reply: “well, honey, just give me your passport and I’ll stamp it and make you an official Southerner, because this apartment is Southern Hospitality at it’s best!” Made me happy!