PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – In this week’s KD Sunday Spotlight, one organization is caring for the caregivers in Pennsylvania and Tennessee.
The Joe Beretta Foundation provides help and hope to families whose loved one is trying to survive heart failure.
Founder Lillian Beretta said she’s giving back in honor of her husband, Joe.
“He was a real Renaissance man,” said Lillian. “[He] loved family, loved farming, very funny, very witty and very smart, and he was a big bald Italian man.”
But Lillian said her husband Joe had an even bigger heart.
Sadly, it unexpectedly started to weaken in 2016.
“As we moved forward, we came to the diagnosis that it was heart failure which was a shock to us because there were no clues of that early on,” said Lillian. “The heart failure got worse.”
At the time, Joe and Lillian lived in Nashville.
He was treated at Vanderbilt University Hospital where he had surgery to implant a left ventricle assist device that helps pump blood through the body.
Unfortunately, Joe developed a blood clot and never fully recovered.
“He was a strong guy,” said Lillian. “But everyone has a limit and he reached his limit. On July 2, 2016, he passed. So, a big hole for our family.”
Now Joe’s family is carrying on his legacy through the Joe Beretta Foundation.
Lillian said they were fortunate to have family and friends by their side during this painful process, but they saw others in the hospital who were alone and far from home.
“We saw the need for relationship during this trauma,” said Lillian. “The second reason is joe was a very relational guy. We really want that to be part of his legacy that people are important, relationships matter, and community is critical.”
Joe’s cousin, Gloria Andreozzi, leads the programs in Pittsburgh.
She said they offer emotional and financial support for non-medical bills.
“These people are going through tragedy, and it affects everyone in the family,” said Andreozzi. “If we can just give them a little bit of happiness, take one load off their shoulder by paying a bill, then I think we’ve done our job.”
The foundation pays for temporary housing at a family house in Shadyside for caregivers who travel for medical care, considering only 4% of hospitals treat advanced heart failure.
They also provide gifts and meals for families during the holidays, have a hospital visitation team, and deliver comfort bags filled with items to help caregivers feel at home.
“We do a lot to support the caregiver,” said Lillian. “I was Joe’s main caregiver. I say the caregiver is the invisible patient. If you love that person, everything that is happening to them is happening to you. You’re just not wired up to the devices.”
Recently, the foundation partnered with Community Kitchen to launch “Papa Joe’s Plates.”
“We are feeding the caregiver while they are in the hospital if they can’t get food; we’re feeding when the family discharges,” said Lillian. “We give them 3-5 days’ worth of meals for the patient, caregiver, and entire household.”
So far, the foundation has supported more than 1,000 people always with Joe’s strong love for family and connection in mind.
“We’ve helped a lot of families,” said Lillian. “Rest, hope and peace are what we’re trying to bring to our families. I think he would be proud of us. I do.”
It’s a vital dose of medicine for caregivers to help them heal.
The organization’s annual Hopeful Hearts Valentine’s Gala is on February 11 at the Priory Grand Ballroom.
You can learn more about the event and the foundation on their website at this link.
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