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TAP 6 | Breast Cancer Support Services

 

People battling breast cancer need all the support they can get to speed up their recovery and get back on their feet, especially in times of hardship. Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation has been helping people with breast cancer in the nine counties of the Hudson Valley Area since 2004. Pari Forood, the Executive Director at the Foundation, joins Brian Powers to talk about how the foundation is coping with the crisis. Pari highlights the Medical Gap Care Program, which helps breast cancer patients pay their bills while undergoing treatment and the foundation’s continuous effort to link patients to social service agencies and other sources of funding. The foundation expects more people to seek their help in the coming months and has prepared accordingly with a host of solutions. Listen in and learn about these programs.

Listen to the podcast here:

Breast Cancer Support Services & Outreach During COVID-19 With Pari Forood

Welcome Pari Forood, the Executive Director of Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation. I’m glad to have you with us.

I’m happy to be here, Brian. Thank you for inviting me.

I’m glad we could do this. Let’s talk about Miles of Hope. I’m a proud board member, but let’s talk about Miles of Hope and the work we do for people that don’t know about our organization.

Our mission is to fund support services for people affected by breast cancer in the nine counties of the Hudson Valley. That’s the area between New York City and Albany. It’s a big area and we try and get the word out that we are here if anyone in treatment for breast cancer needs our help. Our biggest program and the one that we use the most funding for is what we call our Medical Gap Care Program. That simply helps people in treatment for breast cancer with their bills. Any financial help they need, whether it helps with their paying for transportation to and from treatment or their cell phone and electricity bill, we want to step in and help them.

What they’re going through, both medically, physically, mentally is trying. Worrying about bills shouldn’t have to be. That’s great that we do that. What we’re going through with this COVID-19 pandemic, what are we seeing from those patients? One disease and cancer don’t stop for the other. What are you hearing from people that are reaching out to us?

The pandemic started, the shutdown and then people losing their jobs. I immediately contacted the six social agencies that we partner with in order to get that financial help to clients who need it. We partner with the six social service agencies so that it’s the most efficient way that we can get someone help on 24 hours basis quickly. As you can imagine, as people lose their jobs and their financial situation becomes more precarious, they need more help. If someone’s in treatment for breast cancer and they lost their job and lost their health insurance, then they need us. The beauty of connecting them with that social service agency is also that you’ve now put them with someone who can help them, not only with Miles of Hope funding but also with other pots of funding that exists.

You hear daily about the federal government bailouts and like New York is doing. All of these people at the social service agencies and you, Judelson, Giordano & Siegel, are keeping up to speed with this on a daily basis, but it felt like hourly. For that reason, these people need to connect with what’s going on and what’s available to them in terms of stimulus help or they need unemployment or whatever. That’s getting them with that social service agency to get Miles of Hope funding if they’re in treatment for breast cancer and then other kinds of help if they need it as well.

TAP 6 | Breast Cancer Support Services

Breast Cancer Support Services: The biggest thing the foundation is working on is the Medical Gap Care Program, which helps people in treatment for breast cancer with their bills.

 

The resources that they need primarily, the one is financial, but it’s not always that. They can always have needs past that. I know that we received some grants. We were talking about how finances for us and what we’re working toward. We’re working on giving away essentially money that we raised in 2019.

We received two grants and what I’m terribly grateful in this time to be receiving money because, as you and I talked about and as a board member, you know very well that our events have been postponed or canceled like every other not-for-profit, everybody, our events are all canceled. We don’t have that revenue stream coming in. To receive two grants is welcome. The first one was from the Price Chopper’s Golub Family Foundation. Both of these grants are restricted to this Medical Gap Care Fund helping people in treatment for breast cancer with their finances.

The Golub Foundation grant was for $2,500. We received word that through the Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation, which is physically located in Maryland, that they granted us $20,000 for the Medical Gap Care Program, helping people in treatment with their finances. We had a big uptick in people requesting funding from that Medical Gap Care Fund. It’s playing off. As you remember from our board meeting, we discussed the probability that this is going to ride in waves. People’s need is going to ride in waves. We might receive a big increase in people asking for help. We want to be ready for that. That’s why these two grants were welcome.

For my own sanity, we’ve been thinking only in day-to-day or week-to-week. Thinking out now until the end of summer and fall, and even next winter, the comeback is going to be slowed unfortunately or I can imagine it will be. The need will still be there. It’s great that we’re doing that. We’ve received those grants. On the board level, we’ve been talking about the events and trying to rethink them and think outside of the box how we can still do some fundraising for our great cause. Maybe you can talk a little bit about that.

If we can take away the financial stress from someone in treatment for breast cancer, we can help them speed up their recovery. Click To Tweet

I’ll tell you that I’ve heard from a lot of people who’ve come to our brunch every year. It’s always the first Sunday in May. It’s always the Sunday before Mother’s Day. It feels like a holiday or something on the calendar year after year for a lot of people, especially survivors, breast cancer survivors love to come to that event. We usually get of the 400 plus people that come to that event, 100 are breast cancer survivors. They see it as a celebration of their survivorship. For us not to be able to have that event is very difficult for a lot of people.

It’s difficult for me. I’ve been doing it for many years. I’m happy that we’ve been able to reschedule it. The Grandview has been amazing. They immediately worked with me on a new date. We came up with September 13. I’m going to cross my fingers until September 13th that we can do that event. Who knows? You have to think out of the box. People I know are talking by doing virtual events. I know Planned Parenthood is talking about doing a virtual event. It’s a whole new world so we’ve got to figure it out is all we have to do.

The brunch is awesome every year. I feel like it’s one of those events that kick offspring and the nicer weather. The strong people that started this organization and then the survivors that support it aren’t going to put up with not having something in the next couple of weeks or doing something virtually. We’ve put it off to the fall, but I can see us even if doing something online to kick that off and keep it fresh in people’s minds.

I have to tell you, I’m here in our part of the world. I know that when the weather gets nice, people are outside. I see them walking on the street, walking in the fields, and playing tennis. The nice weather, it will be more welcomed now than it ever was before. We all still have to socially distance, wear masks in tight situations, gloves, and everything and be careful and all that thing. I could see people need a celebration. They need to celebrate something.

Our month is October, but locally here in the Hudson Valley, May is seen as the Miles of Hope brunch in that first Sunday in May. I know the couple of years that I’ve been involved now as a board member, it’s definitely something on our calendar. I’m ready for the fall, but I’m not concerned. I know that the tough people that work in our organization and support our organization are going to do a lot.

You are talking about things that Miles of Hope is able to do. Aside from getting those two wonderful grants we talked about, we gave away or granted the support connection to a local organization, they’re called. They’re physically located in Yorktown Heights, but they have a lot of programs in Putnam, Dutchess, and Orange. We granted them $15,000 for a peer-to-peer hotline. This is something that we’ve given them for years. It’s a grant we’ve given them for years. They’ve been running this peer-to-peer hotline for years. It’s an 800 number anyone can call and it’s manned by trained breast cancer survivors. When you call this 800 number, you’re talking to someone who’s been there. That number is 800-532-4290. This is on our website as well as a listing of other programs for anyone in treatment for breast cancer or survivors at MilesofHope.org.

We set the website up so that it’s simple. When you first go to the homepage, you can click on either I Need Help or I Want to Help because those are usually the two types of people that want to come to our website. There are lots of wonderful opportunities to volunteer or there will be coming up soon. I need help is for anyone in treatment or who knows someone in treatment who needs to know about a program, financial assistance, which we’ve talked about, scholarships for college-bound high school seniors. We’re going to have a virtual meeting of our scholarship committee. We’ve received the applications. That will go forward. There’s nothing going to stop our scholarship program. We’re going to go ahead and grant those scholarships. We’ll be delighted to give out those scholarships.

That’s more of the great work that the organization does. Mentioning back to the resources of someone needs help, talk about when somebody puts in a message or makes a phone call, it’s responsive.

That was an important aspect of the program that we wanted to set up immediately. The idea was someone is about to get evicted. Worst case scenario, they can’t pay their rent, mortgage, they’re kicked out of their house, and they’re in treatment for breast cancer. That was unthinkable to us. We thought, “We could try and man a hotline 24/7 or we could set up offices all over the Hudson Valley and spend a lot of money.” It came to us that the best and the most efficient way would be to align ourselves with organizations that are already equipped to do this and Dutchess Community Action Partnership, for instance, in Poughkeepsie, Dover, and Beacon, they have a 24-hour hotline.

They work with people in need, in emergency situations like this. We contacted them and they said, “We’ll work with you on this.” What we do is we grant them a chunk of money and we say, “Go ahead and help the people who are drooping for breast cancer group who come to you,” or that we refer to them and it’s immediate. The money is in their offices or in their coffers. If someone walks in and says, “I can’t pay for groceries for my family,” they are literally given either a food card, a gas card or their landlord is called, contacted, and said, “We are putting a check in the mail for you or you can come to pick it up,” so that it’s immediate, the need is met immediately.

The theory is that stress impedes recovery. Any stress impedes any recovery. If you’re recovering from a heart attack, a stroke, COVID-19, the pandemic, Coronavirus, or whatever. Stress is going to impede your recovery. What we’re trying to do is take away the financial stress from someone in treatment for breast cancer so that they can recover, get back on their feet, go back to work, serve their family as they’ve always done, and get their life back on track. That’s the type of response we receive. You were talking about what types of letters do you get or what type of feedback do you get? That’s the type of feedback we get. “Miles of Hope was able to help me so that I could get back on track,” and then that’s what the program was designed to do.

TAP 6 | Breast Cancer Support Services

Breast Cancer Support Services: People can ask for help anytime through a peer-to-peer hotline run by trained breast cancer survivors.

 

The treatment is here, but I would say that service and that help is right there alongside it. You’re 100% right. The stress needs to be alleviated as much as we can for people going through treatment.

We see this in scholarship applications a lot. I don’t want to take anything away from dads. Dads are great. When mom is sick, the family falls into a little bit in crisis and we’re getting mom or grandmom healthy or whatever is important to the family structure. If we talk about at Miles of Hope helping the individual certainly, but the effect of how that helps the family, the community, the extended family as well.

It’s great that you were able to join me and share this info. It will be a tremendous help to our audience to become aware of the good work that we’re doing.

Thank you, Brian, for having me. I want to say that we had a long relationship with Judelson, Giordano & Siegel and you guys are like family to us. You’ve been amazing supporters from the beginning and you’re the best, not only you personally, but your whole organization.

Support structures are critical to recovery. Miles of Hope helps not only the individual but also their family and their community. Click To Tweet

Thank you. You guys do great work and we’re happy to stand behind and support it.

Thank you.

Important Links:

About Pari Forood

TAP 6 | Breast Cancer Support ServicesPari has been the Executive Director of Miles of Hope since its inception in 2004. She handles all administrative aspects of the foundation including fundraising, public relations and media, and review and research of grant applications. Along with the Event Administrator, she oversees five Miles of Hope annual fund-raising events: Hoops for Hope Women’s Basketball Tournament, Annual Spring Brunch, Goals for Hope Women’s Soccer Tournament, Community Walk for Breast Cancer, and Miles of Hope Day as well as other smaller events.

Prior to joining Miles of Hope, Pari was a community activist and volunteer at various charities for ten years, chairing committees and boards of directors and serving as a trustee while she raised her two daughters. She started her professional career after graduating from Vassar, working in the US House of Representatives for Congressman Hamilton Fish, Jr. of NY, and has worked on NY State Legislature and Congressional campaigns, most notably the US Senate campaign of Congressman Rick Lazio in 2000. She has a Master’s in Public Administration with a concentration in Non-Profit Management and her book, The Gates of Light about her tenure in Washington was published in May 2015.

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