Founded in 1984 by Gary W. Steinke, MD; Rose Kleiner, MSW, LCSW; Michael Gilfix, Esq.; and Elayne Brill, Hearts & Minds Activity Center emerged as the first large capacity dementia-specific adult day program in the country. Since its inception, Hearts & Minds has provided services to over 6,000 individuals living with dementia and their families.
As a licensed 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Hearts & Minds Activity Center operates an additional program on site: a childcare that collaborates with its counterpart for daily intergenerational activities. Established in 1992 as a parent cooperative for the young children of members of staff, the childcare has since evolved into a licensed daycare, open to the public for over fifteen years.
Maria Nicolacoudis joined Hearts & Minds Activity Center as Executive Director in April 2016, shortly after her brother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Initially drawn by the intergenerational services of Hearts & Minds Activity Center, the quality of care, open environment, and connection with the caregivers is what further motivated her to want to become a part of the organization.
Maria brings twenty-five years of experience working in mental health, providing workforce development and rehabilitation services for youth and adults with disabilities. She has developed model, local, and state-wide service programs and social enterprises and served as a corporate consultant for integrated workforce issues. As Executive Director of Hearts & Minds Activity Center, she is responsible for program, staff, and financial administration as well as fundraising and Executive leadership.
Prior to joining Hearts & Minds Activity Center, Maria was the Executive Director of Expandability for eighteen years and has served on several Boards and commissions including HOPE, SCCCED, and the CUHSD Education Foundation. She was a Governor’s appointee to the California Governor’s Committee for the Employment of Persons with Disabilities and an appointee of the California State Secretary of Health and Human services to the California Committee for the Employment of Persons with Disabilities where she served as chair for four years. Maria received a BA from UC Santa Cruz in Psychology, an MA from Santa Clara University in Counseling Psychology, and post-graduate certification in Rehabilitation Management from San Diego State University.
Barbra’s role as Operations Manager is multi-faceted; not only does she act as assistant to the Executive Director, but she also manages facilities maintenance and supports both Hearts & Minds Activity Center’s childcare and adult day programs as well as members of staff in any capacity required of her.
Prior to joining Hearts & Minds Activity Center in 2001, Barbra served as sole caregiver to her former husband for a number of years. This hands-on experience, in tandem with her deep commitment to helping others, drove her to seek an organization in which her skills and knowledge would effectively be utilized. With the prevalence of diagnosis growing exponentially, Barbra recognizes that the respite services that Hearts & Minds Activity Center provides make a noticeable difference for caregivers and fosters a community in which clients feel a sense of value and belonging.
Grace joined Hearts & Minds Activity Center in 1986, just two years after its inception. As Outreach Manager, she performs community outreach and offers support, resources, and educational opportunities through a variety of support groups and seminars.
Grace studied business at San Jose State University and is a certified dementia care provider. Caring for her father, diagnosed with dementia, provided her with invaluable insight into the day-to-day struggles that caregivers navigate and spurred her desire to continue to serve those impacted by the effects of dementia. From her experiences, she gained a view incorporating dual perspectives: both as that of a family caregiver and as an organizational representative striving to meet the needs of caregivers. Grace is passionate about helping others, eager to share her wealth of knowledge with the clients, families, and caregivers that Hearts & Minds Activity Center serves.
Since 1992, as a preschool teacher and later Childcare Center Director, Rosa has ensured that the children of the childcare center receive quality care through intergenerational services and experiential learning opportunities.
Rosa attended Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador where she studied business administration. Upon her arrival to the United States, she completed the requisite certifications at WestMed College to become both a teacher and program director, driven by a strong desire to work with children and shape their development in a positive, meaningful way. She values Hearts & Minds Activity Center’s close-knit community and each teacher’s unwavering commitment to providing children with a safe, enriching, and nurturing environment.
Michelle’s passions for wellness, building relationships, and being part of an organization that helps serve and enrich the lives of others is what attracted her to the Hearts & Minds Activity Center. In addition, having a grandparent suffer from dementia, she understands first-hand the impact facilities like Hearts & Minds Activity Center have.
Upon completion of her bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion, Michelle has spent the past 15 years in numerous health and wellness roles. She has worked with a variety of demographics in different environments, including hospitals, medical care facilities, and corporate offices. Michelle loves connecting others to the tools and resources available to support them.
In her role as Liaison Services Coordinator, Michelle is focused on expanding the volunteer network and supporting the intergenerational program. From her prior experience of building a volunteer network from the ground up and her own personal involvement as a volunteer, she understands how valuable a strong volunteer network is to any organization and the important role they play.
Michelle is deeply interested in furthering her education and pursuing a master’s degree. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors, baking, reading, and spending time with friends and family.
Administrative Team Contacts
Liaison Services Coordinator
Childcare Center Director
Hearts & Minds Activity Center’s twenty-five Engagement Facilitators and three Preschool Teachers, most of whom are multilingual, are highly skilled and receive ongoing monthly training. Staff are extremely passionate about the individuals they serve and are committed to providing quality, person-centered care.
Board of Directors
Director of Facilities
Golden Gate Bell
Global Human Resources Consultant
Global Operations and Strategic Planning Executive
SAP - Americas
Major Gifts Officer, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley
John Ottoboni, Esq.
Board Vice President
General Counsel, Santa Clara University
Ying Luan, PhD
Associate Director of Biostatistics, Pharmacyclics
Ambulatory & Community Health Services
Santa Clara Valley Health & Hospital System
Corporate Strategy Manager, Cisco
Marketing Manager, Shutterfly
Funders & Supporters
The Helen Marcotte Family Scholarship Program
Ottoboni Scholarship Fund