Michelle Javian: Co-Founder & CEO of Harboring Hearts

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Michelle Javian is the Co-founder & CEO of Harboring Hearts. She started the organization in honor of her father, who lost his battle to heart disease after a heart transplant in 2008. During the time she spent by her father’s side in the hospital, Michelle witnessed firsthand the need that existed for refuge and community support for heart patients and their families. It was from this realization, and devotion to her father’s memory, that Michelle and Yuki Kotani co-founded Harboring Hearts in April 2009.

How did you get into the non-profit industry?

I got into the non-profit industry because of my father, who lost his battle to heart disease after receiving a heart transplant in 2008. During the years my father was at the hospital, I noticed the situations of other heart patients and families there. Most had traveled from outside of New York City. I saw people sleeping on couches, living in the corners of the waiting room, and showering at other peoples’ apartments. The need that existed for refuge and community support became strikingly apparent. Something had to be done.

Tell us about Harboring Hearts.

Harboring Hearts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing support and resources to heart patients and their families during the critical time of treatment. Through our Emergency Program, we provide targeted financial interventions that are tailored to meet the specific housing and other urgent needs of those we serve. We also organize educational and recreationalprograms in hospitals to cultivate community and encourage heart healthy living.

What partnerships have you created with HH and how has it helped your charity succeed?

The partnerships that are most essential to our work are those with the cardiology and transplant teams at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, Mount Sinai Hospital, and Montefiore Medical Center. Without this collaboration, we could not be able to fulfill our mission to make a difference in the lives of heart patients and their families as they face serious medical challenges. We will also be expanding these partnerships to work with new hospitals.

What is your proudest moment you've achieved while running HH?

When we received our 501(c)(3) charitable status approval on the one year anniversary of my father’s passing, I knew it was meant to be. My father had such a big heart and he was such a generous person. He is always with me.

How would you define a great philanthropist?

Someone who is passionate about helping others and dedicates a large portion of their time to helping those in need. Great philanthropists truly believe that their efforts will make a positive impact in the world! 

Who inspires you to be the best?

My father. He used to say, “you have to take big risks to get to big places.” Those words continue to inspire me every day in my life and work.

Describe a great night out for you.

A perfect evening is sharing a meal with close friends or family and having lots of laughs.

What literature is on your bed stand?

I usually read more than one book at a time. Right now, you can find on my night stand: Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries by Peter Sims and The Way: The Living Bible which was my mother’s from the 70’s.

What's next for HH?

We have had a really successful 2013 during which we were able to grow our team and launch two new programs. This year our main focus is to continue to expand so we can help as many families as possible. We have a big benefit coming up on June 23rd at the Rubin Museum of Art. It will be a fun and inspirational celebration to support our programs for heart patients and their families. We will be honoring the contributions and experiences of four remarkable leaders: Roger Altman, Founder and Executive Chairman of Evercore; Dr. Lee Goldman, Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at Columbia University; Michael Kutcher, Advocate and Pediatric Heart Transplant Recipient; and Dr. Christine Walsh, Director of Outpatient Pediatric Dysrhythmia Center, Division of Pediatric Cardiology, Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Michelle is active in several other charities, including her roles as a Board member of New York Presbyterian Hospital New Leaders, American Heart Association heart advocate and volunteer, and as a Founding Member of Friends of Best Buddies, Manhattan chapter.

She was awarded the 2009 Maurice Gurin Memorial Scholarship by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, was a semi-finalist in SELF Magazine’s 2009 “Women Doing Good” contest, and chosen as a Rosewood Hotel and Resorts “30 Under 30” winner in 2010.

Michelle holds a B.A. from Georgetown University in Healthcare Management, and is a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post under the “Impact” vertical.