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We took a few minutes to chat with HeartShare’s Chairman of the Board, Paul Torre.
I know it’s been a long time…
Yes, 20 years, I think!
But how did you first get started with HeartShare?
A former Board Member Mr. Giannattasio first introduced me to HeartShare. We worked together and he would bring me to events. The more time I spent in the HeartShare community, the more I was sucked into the HeartShare mission. When you realize the full extent of how HeartShare impacts people’s lives, you want to stay involved and give as much of yourself as possible.
That is very true. What events did you attend?
The first was the Spring Gala. Definitely the Buckley’s Run and that Holiday Tree Trim event we used to have. I must’ve started attending HeartShare events around 1994. I joined the Board in ’97. There’s something about the people who run HeartShare – the people who put their heart and soul into their work – that makes you want to be a part of the organization.
What does it mean to support our programs?
I think a lot about this neighbor of mine who I grew up with. His name was Ricky and he had Down Syndrome. When all the kids, including myself, would play ball on the block, Ricky would sit and watch us. I remember him rocking back and forth, which I now understand knowing more about the behaviors that people with developmental disabilities experience. But even as kids, I feel like we embraced him and tried to make Ricky feel included. That’s what HeartShare does. It includes and embraces vulnerable people.
You must’ve learned so much about our population since then.
I have and continue too, but honestly, whenever I come away from an event, Board Meeting or conversation with a HeartShare employee, I always feel like I should be learning, doing and giving more.
Can you tell me about a memorable moment during your Board tenure?
There are so many! But the one that stands out the most was, a year or so before our former Chairman Ralph Subbiondo passed away, we were all down in Coney Island building a playground at one of the programs. It also happened to be September, right after Labor Day, and we were there with folks from Washington Mutual (WaMu). That day stands out in my mind for two reasons. I have this great image of Ralph and his wife Eva standing on top of a mulch heap about 8-10 feet high wearing bandannas in the excruciating heat and using pitchforks to throw down the mulch where it needed to be. To me, that’s what I mean when I say that this organization has heart and soul. That day also stands out because the WaMu team was helping us build the playground on a 90 plus degree day completely unaware that their lives would change forever. That soon, it would be the beginning of the financial crisis.
That certainly is memorable.
It is. Life is short. Do good!
Knowing HeartShare past and present, what are your hopes for the future?
My hope for HeartShare is that it continues to grow and be able to provide assistance to those who need it. HeartShare always has been responsive to the needs of the community. People with developmental disabilities needed specialized medical care, so we opened Wellness. Children with autism needed a place for quality education and therapies, so we opened The HeartShare School. Autism is a buzzword now, but it wasn’t something that used to be talked about very often when I first starting coming to HeartShare events. The important thing is that we continue to listen to the community, and to adapt and grow our programs to meet those needs.