Spotlighting Our Super Volunteers!

We have been so fortunate to be able to work with such compassionate people. We know we have said this multiple times before, but we really mean it!  Without the help and support from our amazing volunteers, we would not be where we are today.  Thank you!

Read about four of our Super Volunteers: Jessica Melore, Liz Pugatch, Megan Sterrett Sullivan, and Sara Anderson.

Name – Jessica Melore

Current Occupation – Senior Education & Programs Manager, NJ Organ and Tissue Sharing Network; Board of Directors – Harboring Hearts

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – Michelle Javian and I met through mutual friends and realized that we had a lot in common–that her father and I had both received heart transplants–and she told me about how she was in the process of starting Harboring Hearts with Yuki. I understood from a patient perspective that having loved ones there for you makes a huge difference in your mentality and healing–my parents slept every night in my hospital room. I’d met so many other families in need, so I was very excited about Harboring Hearts’ mission and helping Michelle and Yuki grow it.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – For me, it’s a matter of making what I’m passionate about a priority in my life. Fortunately in my career I can promote organ and tissue donation on a daily basis, but helping others cope with the effects of heart disease and promoting prevention is also very important to me. I dedicate certain evenings and time during the weekends for Harboring Hearts and my other advocacy work, and schedule calls on my morning commute. Aside from that, charity events also offer a great opportunity to get together with friends and support a great cause at the same time.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – My parents are the reason I’m here today. I think watching someone go through a traumatic event is much harder than experiencing it yourself, and their strength is unimaginable. I was so grateful that they were there to support me and encourage me to continue pursuing my ambitions, even in midst of uncertainty as I waited for a heart transplant. There are so many other patients out there dependent on that kind of support, so many family members sleeping on hard hospital chairs night after night. Through Harboring Hearts, I want to ensure that loved ones can be there for patients when they need them most.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – My favorite memories are always our events with the families–especially when we did a fundraiser for Johan and Tariq Lopez, 4 year-old heart transplant recipients with a mother who was struggling to get by. It was also very meaningful to be at the NY Presbyterian hospital event and have a chance to connect with the families there in need of our help. I hope that in seeing Michelle and Yuki from a care-giver perspective and me from a patient perspective, it would inspire them to know that they can make it through.

Your Favorites:

  • Favorite city : New York
  • Favorite food : Pecan Pie sundae at Buttermilk Channel
  • Favorite activity: A tie between restaurants and concerts
  • Favorite music: Arcade Fire
  • Favorite museum: Dali Museum in Figueres
  • Favorite travel destination: Costa Rica
  • Favorite book: Anything involving David Sedaris
  • Favorite movie: Amelie

 

Name – Liz Pugatch

Current Occupation – Event Planner at DS Consulting Group

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – I got involved originally to help Yuki, a great friend of mine from UVa, but I quickly came to realize that it’s not only Yuki I was helping, but all of the patients and families that Harboring Hearts has helped and will continue to help for years to come. Yuki and Michelle are so dedicated to this amazing cause, and I am proud to be able to help in any way that I can.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – My career is about giving back.  As a non-profit event planner, I work with these organizations to plan their annual galas and ensure that they reach their fundraising goals so that they can continue to help those who depend on them.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – My parents, absolutely.  All my life they have both been so dedicated to non-profit work and I have seen how their efforts have benefited so many.  It really made me want to get involved and give my time to organizations that I care about, and being able to see Harboring Hearts grow as a charity and help more and more families has been extremely rewarding.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – This might sound crazy, but one of my favorite Harboring Hearts moments was one of the very first meetings we ever had as an organization. We met at Whole Foods; and with our notepads and pens, we talked about how to get this charity off the ground and get the mission out to those in need. We were all so optimistic and excited about the challenge, and I when I look back at that meeting, and how far Michelle and Yuki and the entire Harboring Hearts team have taken this organization, I am honored to be able to say that I am a part of it!

Your Favorites:

  • Favorite city – NYC!
  • Favorite food – super fresh sushi
  • Favorite activity – movie marathons with friends, cooking, skiing, and shopping
  • Favorite music – Christmas Music 🙂
  • Favorite museum – MoMA
  • Favorite travel destination – I love to ski in Aspen
  • Favorite book – It’s a tie between The Help and Water for Elephants
  • Favorite movie – Wow, tough one…Love Actually, Top Gun, Under the Tuscan Sun, Little Women, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Father of the Bride (I and II) and so many more!

 

Name – Megan Sterrett Sullivan

Current Occupation – Principal at Doshi Capital Partners / Heritage Capital India; an Investment Management Firm; Board of Director – Harboring Hearts

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – I got involved with Harboring Hearts to help spread the word about heart disease and help the many families in need.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – When you really care for something you make time. With my career I have a busy travel schedule; Harboring Hearts give me something to look forward to when away.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – My family has been my greatest inspiration. They are always pushing for me to work as hard as I can.  Good things come to those with persistence.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – Seeing the benefits that Harboring Hearts has on families and seeing how happy families get when we are able to help.

Your Favorites:

  • Favorite US City – San Francisco
  • Favorite food  – Pizza
  • Favorite activity – Cooking, Running, Reading
  • Favorite music – Cold Play, Mumford and Sons, Adele, Sting
  • Favorite museum – The Whitney & the Frick
  • Favorite travel destination – St. Barths
  • Favorite book – Pride & Prejudice and Decision Points
  • Favorite movie – Pretty Woman

 

Name – Sara Anderson

Current Occupation – Graduate Student, Masters of Architecture, University of Michigan

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? – As a friend of Yuki’s from University of Virginia, I became aware of Harboring Heart’s mission. I was interested in supporting both the cause and my friend’s effort. I volunteered to make myself useful to Harboring Hearts in any way that I could.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully? – I stay involved with activities that I really care about so that I am dedicated to making the time for them. I feel very lucky for what I have in life, so I am happy to make time to help others.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? – My family has always been a great inspiration in all of these areas. My parents set an example of volunteering their time for the community. They have also always supported and encouraged me in everything I have done.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? – Meeting some the children that Harboring Hearts has helped face to face is a great memory. It’s nice to be able to see what the results of Harboring Heart’s efforts. I have also met a lot of wonderful people who also volunteer their time to Harboring Hearts.

Your Favorites:

  • Favorite city – Boston
  • Favorite food – Anything Italian
  • Favorite activity – Cooking
  • Favorite music – Anything, not too picky
  • Favorite museum – Musee D’Orsay
  • Favorite travel destination – Italy
  • Favorite book – Pride and Prejudice
  • Favorite movie – The Shawshank Redemption

Food Blog – Giving Thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, there is much that Harboring Hearts and I are thankful for. Most importantly, our community of supporters and beneficiaries that constantly remind us of the strength of the human spirit and its ability to be compassionate towards others.  Thank you for being part of our heart community.

The start of the holiday season always reminds me of family and traditions.  Growing up in rural America and raised by Japanese parents led to some interesting traditions for our family.  For quite some time, Thanksgiving at the Kotani residence meant an elaborate sushi dinner.  After repeated requests from my siblings and I to have an American Thanksgiving, my parents gave into our wishes and baked a turkey with sides of mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, sushi, and azuki soup.  Well, it was not the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving that we had in mind but it was our family’s version of Thanksgiving – a Japanese-American dinner.

Most nights, like our Thanksgiving dinners, dinner was usually a fusion of Japanese and other worldly cuisines.  It is interesting looking back at my childhood because many of the current nutritional studies in the US are on the benefits of Japanese produce and cooking.  I cannot remember a time when I did not eat tofu (great source of protein and low in calories), drink green tea (antioxidants and heart health benefits), eat wakame (for healthy hair and skin), and eat rice (cholesterol free, low in calorie and gluten-free).

 

Spring 1988

 

Food has always been an important part of my upbringing and my mom was very conscientious about our family eating all the necessary nutrients to be healthy.  Unintentionally (or maybe it was intentional), she taught us what foods were high in nutritional value while low in calories and trained us to eat in moderation from nourishing foods to sweets.

One piece of advice from my mom that always surfaces when I cook is to make my plate colorful.  To make a plate colorful, you will always need to include vegetables and fruits.

As I shopped at the grocery store last night after work, I could hear her voice in my head.  For dinner that night, I started off with a small spinach salad with tomatoes and homemade lemon vinaigrette dressing (green and red).  Then I baked salmon (warm orange) with a wedge of lemon (yellow), sautéed some asparagus (green), and cooked some brown rice (tan).  To finish off the meal, I indulged in two pieces of raspberry dark chocolate.

While I did not take to everything my mother taught me in my youth, I am fortunate to have been given a head start in heart healthy eating thanks to the good habits she instilled in me through her choices of what to serve at our table.  After my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and ultimately received a heart transplant, I became ever more attentive to what I put in my body.  I firmly believe in the importance of eating properly for the sake of my body, my heart and even for my family and friends.

 

My brother’s college graduation, Summer 2009

 

Luckily, I enjoy cooking and I like to think that I am a competent chef but most importantly, I appreciate having the responsibility involved with cooking healthy foods for loved ones.  In keeping with the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my mother for instilling in me the joy of cooking healthy foods for my family and friends because it can impact their personal eating habits and heart health in the future.

What I decide to put on my table for Thanksgiving this year affects not only me, but my loved ones as well.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Please consider contributing here to continue to show support for Harboring Hearts this holiday season.  Thank you in advance for supporting our cause and helping heart patients and families in need.

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Here are two Japanese inspired side dishes to try during this holiday season!

Sesame-Soy Green Beans

Serves 4

  • 1 lb of green beans
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce (gluten-free) or you can use regular soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Cut the green beans in half to get 2-3 inch pieces. Place the green beans in boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain beans. In a skillet, heat olive oil, add the beans and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add the tamari/soy sauce and sesame oil and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve. (Inspired by Rachel Ray’s recipe)

Asian Sweet Potato Salad with Cucumber, Dates and Arugula

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt

Carrot Ginger Dressing

  • 1/2 cup grated carrot
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons Japanese rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari sauce (gluten-free)
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil (Regular sesame oil will work)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (For a lighter alternative, use Japanese style mayonnaise with rice vinegar – Kewpie Mayonnaise)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Begin by peeling and dicing sweet potatoes. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, reduce heat and cook until just tender but still have a little bite. Drain and place in a bowl to cool.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Once potatoes are cool toss with dressing and set aside on salad platter.

Salad

  • 4 cups lightly packed arugula
  • Cucumber, finely sliced
  • 1 cup dates, pitted and cut in 1/2
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • Olive Oil
  • Splash soy/tamari sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl and dress with lemon juice, olive oil, to taste, a splash of soy sauce, and a little salt and pepper. Toss well and place on top of the sweet potatoes to serve as a complete salad. (Inspired by Tyler Florence’s recipe)

Meet Hadley Mongell

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts. Without the help of our amazing board members, volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

I met Hadley Mongell through Michelle Javian and I knew right away that she would be a perfect fit for the Harboring Hearts team. She had the energy, the entrepreneurial spirit, and most importantly, the heart and compassion to help patients and their families during a difficult time in their lives.

We asked her to join the Board of Directors as our Treasurer. During her tenure as a board member, she went over and beyond her responsibilities to help the organization get off the ground. Michelle and I want to take the time to thank her for all of her hard work, dedication and support.  We have made huge strides with Harboring Hearts but without the fundamental building blocks laid out by Hadley and the other founding members (Jessica Melore and Salwa Touma), we would not be where we are today.

Thank you Hadley for your support and for dedicating your time to Harboring Hearts!

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Name: Hadley Mongell (nickname: Hads)

Current Occupation: Director of Finance (at the Micro Precision Group)

How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts? Michelle Javian and I have been close friends since our high school days at Friends Academy. We had always been close, but our bond grew stronger when both of our fathers were suffering from heart related issues. I was honored when Michelle asked if I would be interested in volunteering, and my role just naturally took on a life of its own. It was a wonderful experience to work with the founding members and help develop this wonderful vision into a reality.

How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully?  I am addicted to creating lists. Haha! In all seriousness, I wake up every day being thankful for such a wonderful life. Working full time and volunteering can be extremely time consuming, but it is always more than worthwhile in the end. So many people and families face a daily battle with adversity, and in order to give thanks, I make giving back a priority. I may not always have as much time as I would like to volunteer, but  I am never too busy to help someone out or make someone feel good even in the simplest of ways.

Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience? My family and wonderful friends have undoubtedly been an incredible driving force in my life. Thanks to working with Harboring Hearts, I have created lifelong friendships with extraordinary people that share my love of giving back to the community. In terms of my career, I admire any trailblazer that stays true to themselves and never forgets the importance of seeing the “bigger picture.” Whether I’m reading an article about Steve Jobs, or taking the time to learn about how my local merchant is working two jobs to provide for his family, I am constantly inspired by the power of the mind and nature of the human spirit.

What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts? My most favorite memories of Harboring Hearts are the early days and initial accomplishments. Whether it was weekend meetings at Michelle’s apartment, or our first meeting with Bill Sullivan of Ronald McDonald house, there was always a feeling of powerful momentum. I would find myself constantly reflecting about how this special group is making big waves in the challenging NYC non profit world. My most favorite Harboring Hearts event was our first event at Haven. Despite the chaotic planning process, it was overwhelming to see the impressive number of supporters who came out to share in our big debut.

Hadley’s Favorites

  • Favorite City? New York City  (but if that’s not allowed…London)
  • Favorite Food? Italian
  • Favorite Activity? Being on the Water
  • Favorite Music? Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Guster & Coldplay
  • Favorite Museum? The Frick
  • Favorite Travel Destination? Nantucket
  • Favorite Book? The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran
  • Favorite Movie? Finding Neverland and The Goonies

Food Blog – Quinoa Upma

We want to share heart healthy recipes and inspiring stories with you!

Forward by Yuki Kotani

We are very excited to introduce our newest social media intern to the Harboring Hearts’ team, Pareesha Narang.  Our interns are invaluable to our organization.

Pareesha is a recent graduate of University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill’s College of Journalism and she came to us with a strong interest in working for a start-up non-profit organization.  Michelle Javian (co-founder) and I immediately saw potential in Pareesha because of her willingness to learn and take initiative on projects.   Most importantly, we felt she truly grasped Harboring Hearts’ mission and vision because of her own personal experiences.  We appreciate Pareesha for sharing her story with us today.

I hope you are inspired by her story and heart-healthy recipe!

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My family made a choice to be heart-healthy when my father was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor back in 1995.  Note that I say family, not just my father. My mother had consulted a special dietitian, and he told us that in order for this to work, we had to do it as a family.

My younger brother and I were both under 10 at the time, and we were told that we weren’t allowed to bring home cookies and all sorts of other unhealthy foods anymore, we were pretty bummed — it seemed so drastic!

As time went on, we got used to better alternatives to all the sugary, fattening foods.  We kept hearing that cancer loves sugar (just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about), so as a family, we became more conscious about what we put in our bodies.

I was born with a sweet tooth, so it definitely took work to get to where I am today.  Over time, I’ve limited the amount of sweet things I eat in a day, drink lots of water and eat a balanced diet filled with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, protein, and a couple of supplements.  I don’t count calories because my weight isn’t a concern, but I do read the ingredients – I like to know what I’m putting in my body!

In April 2009, my father passed away — but he proved the doctors wrong for many years.  I believe that his dedicated change in diet and meditation kept him with us for 14 years since his diagnosis.

When an illness happens to one person, it impacts the whole family.  What helped our family was sticking together and supporting each other.  After my father’s passing, my family continues to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.   It was a good reminder for me that though I’ve been blessed with good health so far, it takes work to keep it that way.

My challenge to you:

  • Replace one unhealthy food in your diet with a healthy alternative.
  • Do something for yourself everyday.

A powerful motivation for me to eat healthy and stay positive is my ability to be there for my mom and my brother – my family.

Here is the recipe for a scrumptious dish I made with my mom, with heart-healthy ingredients including quinoa and chana dal.

Quinoa Upma

Serves 6-8

2 1/2 tbsp. olive oil, we use extra light
1 tsp. mustard (rye) seeds
1 stem curry leaves (about 15 leaves), remove leaves from stem
1/4 cup of chana dal, stones/junk removed and washed (find it at any Indian grocery store)
black pepper
12 oz. quinoa, washed
8 oz. pack of frozen mixed vegetables
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp. salt (less if you’re watching your salt intake!)
1/4 tsp. red chili powder (cayenne)
24 oz. water
fresh cilantro, chopped
lime
roasted peanuts (optional)

Heat the oil in a large pan (make sure you have a lid for it), medium heat. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and a generous pinch of black pepper.  Stir, then add the chana daal and saute for 2 minutes.  Add quinoa, dry roast for about 7-8 minutes until it gets a little color (turn down heat slightly if needed).  Add onion and frozen vegetables, saute until cooked, about 5 minutes. Add salt and red chili powder, saute for 30 seconds, then add water.  Cover the pan. Once water comes to boil, lower the heat and let cook for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle a handful of cilantro, juice of a lime, and sprinkle peanuts on top.  Enjoy it guilt-free!

Follow me at my food blog! http://itsallfoodlove.blogspot.com

Meet Tamara Jerardo!

We want to take this opportunity to showcase key people who have been essential in the development of Harboring Hearts.  Without the help of our amazing volunteers and interns, we would not be where we are today.

I have known Tamara “Tam Tam” Jerardo since our college days at the University of Virginia and I have always been in awe of her artistic talent and vision.  When Michelle and I started Harboring Hearts, we knew we needed help with our logo and brand.  I immediately thought of Tamara and asked for her creative input.  We met at a coffee shop in Soho, NYC to discuss our preliminary ideas for our brand. (See below for our first logo!)

We have revised our logo since those formidable days of working in coffee shops (with wi-fi!) but the essence of the first logo is still evident in our logo and brand today.

Tamara has continued to support Harboring Hearts in various ways from creating event invitations, taking photos at events, volunteering at community events and co-hosting fundraising events on behalf of Harboring Hearts.  Learn more about our “Super Volunteer”, Tamara! – Yuki Kotani

  1. Name: Tamara Eve Jerardo (I often go by “Tam” or…”Tam-Tam”)
  2. Current Occupation:  Freelance Graphic Designer and Visual Design Intern at Blenderbox, Inc.
  3. How and why did you get involved with Harboring Hearts?:  I met Yuki when we were both students at the University of Virginia, and we’ve remained friends into our years as NYC-dwelling twenty-somethings. Yuki explained her idea for Harboring Hearts to me in a Soho coffee shop in 2008, and I instantly wanted to be a part of this touching cause. I had a vision for the branding, and how this broad idea could be summed up visually. It wasn’t a question for me – to be able to do something I love to serve the greater good was an obvious opportunity I couldn’t pass up.
  4. How do you balance your career and giving back so successfully?:  When I started volunteering with Harboring Hearts, I was working as a project manager for a start-up company. I blocked out time after work or during weekends to work on projects for Harboring Hearts. It’s a commitment, but if you really care, you can make time for these things.
  5. Who or what have been your greatest inspirations in your life, your career, and your volunteer experience?:  The people who have inspired me most have one thing in common: fearlessness. There are so many dimensions of fear, and to take action in spite of possible negative outcomes is a risk, but you have to know that you can recover from failure if that becomes the case. Once fear is eliminated as an obstacle, possibilities abound. This form of boldness doesn’t come without work, however. I think the best risk-takers are also well-informed and dedicate a lot of time to knowledge acquisition.
  6. What are your favorite memories about Harboring Hearts?: I would have to say volunteering at the Children’s Hospital uptown teaching the kids arts and crafts. I would do that any day. It was heartbreaking to learn of what some of those kids were going through, but you’d never know; they were so bright-eyed, cheerful and eager to learn. To see the smiles and sense of accomplishment the children felt from creating things was an extremely rewarding experience. That in and of itself was an inspiration. Such simple gestures can make a huge difference. It’s up to the rest of us to take the opportunities to do these things as they come.
  7. Tam’s Favorites
    • Favorite City? Can’t choose just one. San Francisco, New York City, Paris, Florence. The almost palpable sense of ambition and culture in SF and NYC is what attracts me to these cities, and the sense of history to European cities.
    • Favorite Food? Again, undecided. But I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of Vietnamese food. Healthy, fresh and delicious.
    • Favorite Activity? Exploring, in many senses of the word. Making art and music, reading, biking, conversing and traveling are at the top of my list.
    • Favorite Music? Mood-dependent. Old jazz standards and their modern interpretations, 90s alt rock, motown, female r&b vocalists are among my favorites.
    • Favorite Museum? A tie between Musee d’ Orsay in Paris, The Tate in London, and MoMa. I have a love affair with modern art because I feel like much of it is a harmonious marriage between art and graphic design, and I’m a big fan of conceptual work.
    • Favorite Travel Destination? Pacific Northwest/West Virginia. I’m quite fond of adventure sports and the great outdoors. Yosemite in CA and the Gauley River in WV are the origins of great memories for me. Both places are mindblowingly beautiful.
    • Favorite Book? A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry is one of my favorites in the fiction realm – it’s just one of those books that forces you to age intellectually, in a good way. For entertainment purposes, I enjoy the anecdotal memoirs of the sardonic, self-deprecating type authors: Sedaris, Sloane Crosley, Augusten Burroughs, etc. I willingly suffer the consequences of embarrassing hysterical laughter on the subway.
    • Favorite Movie? The Before Sunrise/Before Sunset series. The introspection, the sense of adventure and spontaneity. I googled Before Sunset and read all this literature on it after watching the movie. Highly recommend. I also love all the hilarious Judd Apatow movies.

A couple of examples of her work. She is available for freelance work too!

Her design portfolio is available here.