A Voice for the Good: Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana
3Rivers is proud to support so many of the non-profit organizations that are committed to making our community a better place to live, work, and play, and we want to help spread the word about the difference they're making in our region. We’ve teamed up with 97.3WMEE to bring you A Voice for the Good podcast to do just that! We’re temporarily bringing the podcast to you via these Q&A online articles, as we’re doing our part to social distance and keep our community safe.
This article features Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana—a local non-profit on a mission to “enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer by providing meaningful resources, information, and compassionate assistance.”
We sat down with Stacey Stumpf, Director of Development & Marketing, to learn more about Cancer Services and their work in the Northeast Indiana community.
How did Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana come to be? What’s the history/story behind how the organization initially got started?
Cancer Services was founded in 1944. It was started by a small group of civic-minded people including the Jaycees and a man named Robert Punsky. They started the organization to help families devastated by a cancer diagnosis and it was considered the local chapter of the American Cancer Society. However, in the 1950s, the organization became an independent nonprofit that focuses on local needs and is accountable to local leaders, donors, and volunteers.
In 2006, the agency expanded its services area to the 11 counties of Northeast Indiana and became Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana.
What is the official mission of Cancer Services, and how is it currently being put into play?
Cancer Services’ mission is to enhance the quality of life of those affected by cancer by providing meaningful resources, information, and compassionate assistance.
The goal of our programs and services is to reduce the financial and emotional burden that cancer causes. For more than 75 years, Cancer Services has served as this community’s caring response when our friends, neighbors, and family members have cancer.
How do you see the mission and vision of Cancer Services evolving in the future in the Northeast Indiana community? Where do you see your organization a year from now, or even five years from now?
One of Cancer Services’ strengths is that the organization has evolved as the needs of our community have evolved. Cancer used to be considered a death sentence, but survivorship rates are, thankfully, improving. The services we provide have evolved to focus more on survivorship. How people can have a better quality of life during and after cancer treatment. We have exercise classes and oncology massages, for example. Our expertise has grown too. Our client advocates are all very skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced professionals. We provide very effective and high-quality services, including mental health counseling, sexual health counseling, and nutrition consultation all from qualified professionals.
Even as we evolve, the vision is to continue to be the community response so that people affected by cancer experience a sense of empowerment, strength, and hope for their personal cancer journeys.
Are there any exciting new developments, updates, or changes that have recently taken place at Cancer Services?
One exciting development at Cancer Services is our effort to make it easier for people to access our programs and services no matter where they live in Northeast Indiana. We are offering more services virtually and we are offering lots of new programs on the Southeast side of Fort Wayne at the Impact Center.
Our nutritionist also provides nutrition workshops and consultations throughout our services area. But this is just the beginning of this effort. We are looking at several ways we can make it easier for everyone in Northeast Indiana to access our services!
What kind of impact has the global pandemic had on Cancer Services, and how has the organization pivoted or gotten innovative in response?
COVID has been awful for everybody. However, it has disproportionately impacted families dealing with cancer. Suppressed immune systems make cancer patients a much higher risk for COVID infection, and if infected, they face a high mortality rate. Cancer Services had to quickly make also of adjustments so that we could continue to safely provide critical services to a vulnerable, high-risk population.
We began offering many of our services virtually. We created the Survivor Academy Online which includes nutrition workshops and wellness classes, such as yoga and tai chi. Our client advocates, mental health counselors, and nutritionist now provide consultations by phone, email, and Zoom.
We also developed contactless delivery procedures for supplies and medical equipment.
For a period, we even had a drive-through wig salon.
Could you share a standout story or two that really illustrates the impact Cancer Services and/or its programs has on those in our community?
We have a client who was diagnosed with stage-III colon cancer last September. She is the heart of a large family that depends on her. We’ve been able to help her with a few important things, including some medication expenses and extra ostomy supplies that are not covered by her insurance. However, I think the biggest impact we had was recently when her daughter’s car broke down and she needed transportation to her final week of radiation treatments. We arranged for one of our amazing volunteers to drive her to treatment.
Another story that is sticking with me is one Sandra Thomas told me. Sandra is the client advocate for all of Cancer Services’ child clients. Sandra calls her families at least once a month just to check on the family. She called and spoke with a father of one of her clients who is a precocious three-year-old boy battling leukemia. The family has a large support network and has not needed much help. But on the day Sandra happened to call the dad was distraught because the expense of hotels and gas for the many trips the family must make to Riley Children’s Hospital was becoming overwhelming. We were able to connect the family with a place to stay for free and assistance to pay for travel costs.
How can those interested in your services go about getting started or getting in touch?
It’s easy to connect to Cancer Services! Just call us at 260.484.9560 or visit our website at cancer-services.org.
Are there other local non-profit organizations that Cancer Services works/partners with to enhance their programs?
We work with many local nonprofits to make sure our clients have all the support they need and make sure we are not duplicating another agency’s efforts. A few easy examples are Community Harvest Food Bank for nutrition assistance as well as local hospice services. One partnership that touches my heart is our collaboration with Humane Fort Wayne, when our clients need help caring for a pet during treatment.
Are there opportunities for community members to volunteer at Cancer Services—and if so, how can they go about learning more?
Cancer Services has the most caring and dedicated volunteers are they are critical to meeting the needs of clients. Volunteers hand-sew thousands of bed pads for cancer patients each year, helpful items we’ve provided to clients going all the way back to 1944. Volunteers also drive clients to cancer treatment, help plan our special events, work at health fairs, help in the office, take care of the Healing Garden and so much more.
We really value our volunteers and encourage anyone who wants to make a difference for people with cancer to contact Haley Walters, our Volunteer Coordinator, at email@example.com. There is also information about volunteering on our website. Haley is very skilled at matching a volunteer’s interests and talents with the tasks that need doing.
In what other ways can community members support Cancer Services—be it through monetary donations, material donations, education, etc.? Do you have an itemized wish list of any kind or utilize options like AmazonSmile to raise funds?
Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is entirely supported by charitable donations and 100% of the donations we receive stay in our community to help local people with cancer. Strong community support means that almost all the programs and services are provided at no cost to clients.
A gift of any amount helps. People can give on our website. People can also support Cancer Services when they do their regular shopping. We also participate in Kroger’s Community Rewards program and AmazonSmile shoppers can also donate to us while they shop on Amazon!
We also accept donations for our warehouse and wig salon. We always need durable medical equipment, such as walkers, wheelchairs, and bath benches. We also need baby wipes, incontinence briefs, nutrition drinks, gauze, and ostomy supplies. Wig donations are always welcome too.
Where can our readers learn more about Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana or about getting involved?
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana?
We want people to know that Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana is here to serve everybody in our community who is touched by cancer. That means we are here to help people who have cancer as well as family members and friends who are caring for someone with cancer. We also have great resources for local employers who want to make sure they are ready to help an employee who is diagnosed with cancer. It also means that we can help people of every income level, every background, and at every stage of the cancer journey.
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