Director of Business Development
Abba Care Assisted Living
In working with senior housing communities, the Coalition for Aging LGBT relies heavily on “champions” to advocate for better LGBT care, and to lead their communities to full LGBT cultural competency. Champions can hold any position within a community, from marketing director, to events coordinator, to chief administrator. They provide invaluable partnerships by coordinating with, and advocating to, fellow staff members.
John Villapando, director of business development with Abba Care Assisted Living in Garland, is one such champion who has taken the cause of LGBT-friendly housing for seniors as a calling for his professional journey, and as a priority for his family-run community. John’s dedication has led Abba Care to become the first community in North Texas to score a 100% on the LGBT-Friendly Senior Housing Metric.
John’s parents founded Abba Care Assisted Living when he was in High School. At the time, he was more interested in becoming a minister than working at his parent’s community. After attending college, however, they suggested he work in the family business. After all, during college breaks he was happy to do odd jobs for the residents at Abba Care. Beginning in 2013, he discovered Abba Care is where he belonged.
From left to right: Brian Price (CfA LGBT), John Villapando, and Robert Emery (CfA LGBT) at Abba Care Assisted Living in Garland, for their community site visit.
A moment of clarity came to John in 2015. He attended a Summit produced by the CfA LGBT, where he deeply and authentically connected to the mission of serving Seniors. When the CfA LGBT’s housing team approached John to participate in the LGBT-Friendly Senior Housing initiative, the industry “suddenly began to make sense to me, in a personal way,” he thought. “One day I’ll be old. I feel as if I owe something to these brave pioneers who lived their lives openly and honestly, who brought us to this place in history, who gave us the rights we all enjoy today. These people fought so I don’t have to. I owe them a safe and comfortable retirement.”
John believes CfA LGBT Summits are much more empowering than a typical marketing conference. At a CfA LGBT Summit, John witnessed the sharing of productive discussions and the creation of real solutions. In regard to the policy changes required by the LGBT-Friendly Senior Housing Initiative, John encountered fewer obstacles than are faced by larger corporate-owned communities. John explains, “Abba Care is a small, family-owned-and-operated business, so it’s a lot easier to make the necessary changes.” The biggest challenge that concerned him was the conservative backgrounds of his residents and his employees. John was delightfully surprised when his employees responded positively to the training sessions, and when his residents, as well, responded positively to their LGBT film and discussion event.
John believes the retirement care industry is becoming more receptive to the LGBT population. He encourages other communities to open their hearts and their doors to LGBT seniors.
“It’s not nearly as overwhelming as you may think,” John assures. “You may be met with fear at first but your worst fears are unfounded. It’s a lot of work but absolutely worth it.” John is grateful for the CfA LGBT-Friendly Senior Housing Initiative and happily concludes that “being open-minded and welcoming to all is good for business.”