(Featured photo: Tim Mallad, CEO, Forefront Living; Jane Seymour.)*
Tim Mallad, CEO, Forefront Living
What drew you to a career in senior living and healthcare?
I think that this type of career is more of a calling than something that you’re drawn to. When I was in college, I wanted to work on the marketing and public relations side in particular, on the PR side. I took a part-time job in a retirement community doing a newsletter – it was supposed to be for three months – and at the end of that I would go back and pursue my dream of working for one of the automotive companies. I’m from Detroit – so, in fact, I wanted to work for Ford, and I’d already had the interview at what we call the Glass House, their world headquarters. So, my designs were solely set on public relations and automobiles. And instead, that three months has turned into 34 years. And I think anytime you discover treasure, you’re not quite sure you have it until you look back; but what a fortunate part-time job that I took, I’ve never looked back from that first day that I walked into the retirement community and met my first resident.
What is the best part of your organization’s mission of “making moments matter” in your opinion?
I think there are two levels. “Making Moments Matter” is our mission. That’s what we’re here to do. We’re here to make each moment matter. And we have such a broad continuum of services. We have a very independent lifestyle-driven portion of our organization with our independent living, and we have a hospice portion – and all along that journey and that continuum we get to have so many moments with the people we serve. In the beginning in independent living, we’re able to take those moments and pull them together and create experiences at the very end on the hospice side. We’re able to be with somebody in the most precious thing they and their family have. And that is the moment.
Speaking of moments, we understand you had a chance encounter with a Hollywood actress, and it has led you to many interesting moments and opportunities. Can you tell us the story of how you and Jane Seymour first met?
I was actually on a flight to Nashville had gotten the last upgrade, the very last upgrade, and the best part about getting that upgrade was the seat next to me was empty. I had a presentation I was working on, I was thrilled not to have a seat mate, and just before the plane door closed – as any good story goes – this petite lady walks on and she has her back to me the entire time and she is attempting to put a suitcase in the overhead. And I look up because I’m working on my presentation, I had my computer out, and I’m like, oh gosh, she’s gonna sit next to me.
I just know this and I’ve gotta get work done, but I got up and I helped her with the bag, and she thanked me. So, with her back to me, I’m like, gosh, I know that voice. It was an English voice. Where do I know that voice from? She proceeded to sit down, was looking out the window, actually selling a piece of art. I thought, oh, there’s an art dealer here. And I went back to typing and she asked some questions, she was worried about losing her bags and had a short connection time. And I said, “We’re fine. It’s a couple hour flight,” and we exchanged some pleasantries. And when I looked over, it was then that I realized who I was talking to. So, the ice was already broken at that point in time.
If you talk about serendipity, she had produced the documentary on Glen Campbell in his journey with Alzheimer’s disease, “I’ll Be Me,” and it was being premiered at the Leading Age conference. And we were both going there. We had this connection related to what I did and the passion truly that she has. At her real core is the desire to bring like-minded people together, to do incredible things. Her philosophy is, if like-minded people can band together, there’s nothing that can’t be accomplished.
And I think what happened on the plane as we talked – and we talked about so many things that day – is we decided that we had more things to discuss. I was sitting there pondering, should I ask her for her autograph? I want her autograph. I better not ask for her autograph. I could ruin it. And instead, I walked off the plane with her name and phone number on the back of my business card. So, better than an autograph. But from that day on, I think from the day we met – and she’ll tell you the same thing – we became friends, just because I think at our core, we’re both wired the same way, and we both have this immense desire to serve our fellow human being.
And so, after you met, then you stayed in touch and it led to . . .
You know, it led to a number of things, a number of cool things. I think one of the neatest things is she connected me to the Campbell family, and I was able to meet Kim Campbell, who’s Glen Campbell’s now widow. And again, like-minded people, I was able really to work with Kim and work through some speaking engagements, bring some awareness to Alzheimer’s, do additional screenings of the film. And again, a friendship was formed with Kim Campbell and her family just based on that. I had the great privilege of getting to accompany Kim to the memory support community where Glen was and to tour it with her. Kim is an open book and she wanted to bring awareness through her own experience. And through that, we were able to leverage each other’s talents. I had the audience, and she was willing to share the experience. So, I think that was one of the neatest things that came out of that.
But along the way getting to spend more time with Jane and getting to know Jane. We know Jane as an actress. We know her as an author. We know her lately as someone who’s just prolific in the television industry. But I got to know her as a philanthropist and the humanitarian as well. And ultimately, she asked on behalf of the Open Hearts Foundation that I join their board, the Open Hearts Foundation board, which was born out of her mother’s vision to have an open heart.
Jane’s mother was incarcerated in a Japanese internment camp in Indonesia for the duration of World War II. And out of that adversity she really created a life philosophy that where there’s adversity there’s opportunity. And if you open your hearts and lift up people, you can do great things. So, I’m like, gosh, each moment matters. You know, it really linked, and it linked well.
And through that, both Kim and Jane came here and both of them spoke at our fundraising luncheons and the best part is not only did they speak, but they came here, and they met our team. They went through the different organizations that we have. They spent time in the hospice. They spent time with family members and with patients, and at the same time as they were learning, they were bringing joy. So, it has been very much a win-win, but that’s how I was ultimately invited to become a board member and now board chairman of the Open Hearts Foundation.
It’s clear there is a compatibility between the Open Hearts Foundation and with the Forefront Living Foundation . . .
What’s neat is that the Open Hearts foundation is really focused on women’s and children’s issues and on being, I would say, an incubator for small nonprofits that don’t have the wherewithal to go through the grant writing process. Open Hearts does the vetting for them, and then supports these organizations. It’s very grassroots. And at the very beginning of the pandemic, as that vision was crystallizing about how we could make a difference, Jane had been to Forefront Living and had a good understanding – especially since so many of our residents are women – and the impact that could be made by bringing experiences and moments to individuals that were in lockdown. And so, the two missions collided really. This was probably in March or April of 2020 and Jane offered to do something. She wanted to do something, as always, for the greater good, and we were able to arrange a meeting between Jane and a woman who was at the end stages of ALS.
And Jane taught her how to paint. Now, if you can imagine someone with ALS and her hands were contracted. And at that point she had difficulty speaking, but magic was born there. And the inspiration for the Openhearted Challenge, which became a more of a national movement through Open Hearts, was born between the resident, Jeanie Fite, and Jane Seymour. Jane went on to paint with other residents. Great art was created that spawned an auction of all of the artwork Jane did in COVID that was inspired by Jeanie and our residents, which then raised $75,000 for the charities that Open Hearts provides. So that chance meeting, that inspiration with Jeanie and with Pam Alta, kind of lit a fire among all of us. And was that little, little ray of light that we all needed in the darkest hours of the pandemic.
What do you think is the most important thing that Forefront Living gives back to the community?
You know, we’re nonprofit. So, the best and biggest thing that we can give back to the communities is to give ourselves to the communities and be a resource. And that’s really how nonprofits formed. We’re here for our communities, we are here to serve our communities. So, while we have bricks and mortar where these services can occur, we can also leverage those services to help the broader community. So, if you look at the depths of COVID, very early on we experienced COVID in a small sector of our business and skilled nursing. And instead of retreating inward, we pulled up our bootstraps and said, “We’ve got a skillset. What can we do?” And we opened the first COVID unit in Dallas, and I’m proud to say that we provided over 2,000 days of COVID care to our community, through a wonderful team.
And because of this mission that we have to make each moment matter, and we want to also be known as the organization that gives and gives back. So, I think COVID really was a time to put that philosophy to work and to attest. And I think the further manifestation of that occurred when the county through Dr. Wong, the medical director for Dallas County, asked us to participate in providing vaccines to our community. And at that point in time, it was at the very beginning of the vaccination process, there were thousands of people going to Fair Park.
We were invited to come down and Dr. Wong wanted a small location. We thought maybe we could do 100, 200, and I think we were ambitious enough to think maybe we can help and do 500 vaccines for the County. It’s a small, at this point half a dozen, of our teammates at Faith Presbyterian Hospice available to do this. We thought maybe we’ll do 500. And Dr. Wong said, “You know, if you can do 10, we’ll take your help.” Well, that goal of 500 became nearly 7,000 as we had clinic after clinic. And again, what a great way to partner with the community. What a great thing for hospice nurses to offer lifesaving vaccines. So that was probably some of the happiest moments we’ve had on our campus as people came through in the drive-through clinic and got their first and second vaccine with us. And then they got to see the Pickens campus as well.
Are there plans for doing a booster clinic drive-through, too?
There’s been some discussion and we still keep in touch with Dr. Wong. We’re here to help and I think that’s the important part. When a nonprofit is successful and is doing well, its resources can be leveraged for the betterment of the community in which it serves. And this has very much been a reciprocal relationship. Forefront Living is weathering – I wouldn’t say we’re out of it – but we’re weathering the pandemic well. And we’re always here to help our community and the people that live in it. Now we serve seniors primarily and a little bit of a different age demographic with hospice; but in this case, community means everyone in the community.
What is the biggest fundraiser your Foundation puts on and how are the funds used?
Our largest fundraiser is the Each Moment Matters Luncheon. It’s typically held in the fall and the dollars that are raised are really raised for Faith Presbyterian Hospice. Our Foundation exists solely to bring the extraordinary to the people that we serve. Faith has an array of services, including this beautiful campus that we’re on right now, where the Pickens Center resides that provides bereavement support, that provides massage therapy, that provides music therapy, that addresses spiritual care needs. And it doesn’t just address those for our patients. It addresses them for their families on the bereavement side, it addresses them for children and spouses and others impacted. And this luncheon really drives the funding for those programs. And that’s what makes that extraordinary happen. That’s what really makes Faith who Faith is.
How can others volunteer and get involved in your organization?
Contact us! We’re always looking for volunteers. The best way for someone to experience an organization is through volunteerism, and volunteers play a huge role in what we do in all levels of living through independent living and all the way through hospice. So, we accept volunteers of all ages and really would love to have more people come and see who we are and get to work side by side with us. (Visit https://www.forefrontliving.org/contact/)
As a final question, do you have a favorite moment or a highlight moment you’d like to share?
I think highlight moment was with our luncheon speaker last year, 99-year-old Lucky Luckadoo, who was 98 at the time and a World War II pilot – he flew B-17s. And any time that I get to spend time with any resident is a highlight; but after he spoke, we had some World War II fighter planes fly over. And the two of us were invited to go out to the airstrip, and he and I got to tour the airfield together and we got in airplanes together. And it’s a moment I’m always going to remember as just incredible and a high point.
I think the other high point, and it’s interesting because it’s not with a resident that is a resident of our communities, but through a project I’m working on. I got to meet a gentleman by the name of Walter Levy, and Walter is also the same age and is a survivor from the Holocaust. He and I are actually working on a project together. And any moment that I get to spend with Walter is magical. Getting to be in his presence is magical. Getting to go back through some of the most horrific points of his life is a privilege. And we talk about them and the forward look he has and the desire to continue to give an impact is inspirational. So, those two gentlemen are right at the top of my favorite experiences.
Someone asked me, why do you do it? I’m like, you just get to meet the most incredible people in the world and the resources you have at your hands as far as the gray matter, no pun intended, but this kind of gray matter. If you live a certain period of time in life, you’ve gotten there for a reason. Success, no matter what. And every day I have the ability to work with accomplished individuals who have time, and they want to spend it with us and with me and I get to learn. So overall, that’s my cumulative best experience.
(This CharityLifestyles eBuzz and Spotlight Q & A sponsored by Forefront Living.)