Helping Hearts off to good start in assisting financially needy

By Kelcy Dolan
Posted 4/26/16

In barely a month since organizing, a new community-based non-profit, Helping Hearts, has nearly sold out tickets to its first fundraiser.

Co-Founders Valerie Casey and Steven Barbato had talked …

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Helping Hearts off to good start in assisting financially needy

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In barely a month since organizing, a new community-based non-profit, Helping Hearts, has nearly sold out tickets to its first fundraiser.

Co-Founders Valerie Casey and Steven Barbato had talked about starting the organization for some time, but the idea only solidified a few weeks ago when Casey said if the two were ever going to do it, it should be now.

“I didn’t want to wait anymore,” Casey said. “If we help people it doesn’t matter when we start, better sooner than later.”

Both Barbato and Casey have been involved in non-profits from helping at numerous fundraisers and volunteering throughout the state.

In the brief time since Helping Hearts was established, numerous people have reached out for help, and already the group is registered as a non-profit with the Secretary of State’s office and are working on gaining a 501(c)3 designation.

Casey said within a half hour of launching a Facebook page Helping Hearts started receiving private messages from those who are struggling financially.

“We want to help everyone, but that’s just not feasible,” Barbato said. “If we see a need in the community though we are going to act. We want to make a lasting difference.”

He explained that Helping Hearts, based in Warwick, aims to financially assist struggling families in times of crisis, filling in the gaps other agencies might miss.

Casey and Barbato have built a large network of friends and family and believe they will be able to “get things done” quickly.

“We don’t want to give a hand out, but a hand up,” Casey said. “We need to address the real concerns as to why people are struggling. We want to better lives.”

Barbato said, “I have come to learn that not everyone in trouble got there by their own fault. You can work hard your whole life, something unexpected hits and all of a sudden you are struggling.”

Helping Hearts’ first beneficiary will be the Babcock family.

Helping Hearts is hosting a fundraiser, a wine and appetizer tasting on May 12 to help offset Jesse Babcock’s medical costs. Babcock, who was born and raised in Warwick, was recently diagnosed with Squamous Cell Carcinoma, an oral cancer that spread through Babcock’s tongue.

A letter carrier for United States Postal Service, Babcock has been a local baseball and football coach for years. He has served as the coach in Cal Ripken, Warwick PAL and Continental baseball leagues, for regular and all-star teams as well as the AAU elite travel team, Kent County Kings and the Babe Ruth All Star team. In football, Babcock has coached all levels of Warwick PAL football, even two undefeated teams.

Kim Berlie, Babcock’s wife, said, “He loves to coach. It’s his passion. He loves to see the kids succeed and grow, just to have some fun.”

Babcock, who is receiving treatment in Boston, underwent a 12-hour surgery to remove three-quarters of his tongue, which was cancerous and to reconstruct the organ. Squamous Cell Carcinoma is a rare cancer and does not respond to chemotherapy. The family is currently discussing treatment options. At the least, Babcock is looking at a year’s worth of recovery. He and Kim have four children, Ashlee, David, Brett and Caidyn.

Barbato has been a long-time family friend to the Babcocks, and Jesse even coached Barbato’s son in baseball.

“We were all in Boston when Steve called to say he was starting this organization and wanted to help us,” Berlie said. “You have friends and you know they care, but when you are going through a tragedy like we are to see them and even people you don’t know sharing their love and support its emotionally overwhelming.”

Casey’s charitable nature comes from her ability to relate. As a single mother, there were times her family struggled, where food was scarce, and there wasn’t heat.

“When I hear these stories I remember what it feels like, how scared you can be,” she said.

Barbato became invested in charity work after his son, Brendan, was diagnosed with diabetes. He was hospitalized for a few days and Barbato realized “how lucky he was to take his child home.”

“It really put things in perspective to me,” Barbato said.

Both Casey and Barbato believe Helping Hearts has a lot of space to grow and already have a few ideas on future fundraising ideas including a cigar dinner and cooking course.

“All we are, are two people who came up with an idea,” Casey said. “It’s the people who are supporting and helping us that deserve a pat on the back. They are the ones making a real difference.”

The fundraiser benefiting the Babcock family will be a wine and appetizer tasting on May 12 at the Valley Country Club, 251 New London Ave, beginning at 6 p.m. and running until 10 p.m. There will be over 30 wines provided by Gabarro’s Wines on Federal Hill as well as a silent auction and various raffles. Tickets are $40 per person.

For more information on the fundraiser call Barbato 965-9506 or Casey 529-1815. You can also visit the Helping Hearts Facebook page for more details and the event page.

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