Cancer Foundation of Northeast Georgia Seeks to Ease Financial Burdens of Illness
The nonprofit serves an 18-county area, including Barrow.
Gloria Martin found out she had breast cancer last July. Five days after that diagnosis, she learned she was two weeks pregnant. She and her husband had been trying to have a second child, but the news that she was carrying another daughter was overwhelming: on top of a pregnancy, the Colombia native was facing surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
To protect the fetus, Gloria Martin waited until the second trimester to begin chemo. Then she began to drive from her eastside Athens house to the Northeast Georgia Cancer Care facility on the westside of town for her treatments. The social worker at the practice referred her to the Cancer Foundation of Northeast Georgia for help, and they began providing her with gas cards.
“It’s very nice of them,” she says. “I mean, here I am pregnant and going through chemo, and there are economic issues for my husband and me. I appreciate their help.”
The foundation's beginnings
That’s just the sort of support the foundation provides to its clients, who live in the 18-county area around Athens. And that’s why the physicians at the cancer care center started the foundation years ago, said Loretta Goodson, the practice administrator.
“We found some patients were having a hard time paying for their oral medications,” Goodson said. “And for those people who live 50 miles away, driving for treatments was a burden — some people can have 35 or 40 radiation treatments. As a practice, we couldn’t pay for those things.”
But the foundation can, and does. In 2009, when the foundation became a nonprofit, the board hired Kimberly Liebowitz as director. And the number of donations, like the number of patients served, began to rise.
The foundation's mission
"We want to take care of the basic living expenses while people are going through treatment for their cancer," Liebowitz said. So, if needed, the foundation will cover the costs of transportation, rent or mortgage, utilities, food, durable medical equipment, medication, insurance copays or insurance preminums for COBRA.
In 2012, Liebowitz said, the foundation hoped to provide $100,000 of support to cancer patients. When the books were tallied, she learned the foundation had provided $102,000 in care to 305 people. Recipients can be patients at Emory or another clinic, as long as they live within the 18-county service area.
The foundation's fundraising mechanisms
Individuals and groups donate to the foundation. There are also events designed to raise money, including the well-attended and much-enjoyed Tri to Beat Cancer Triathalon at Sandy Creek Park. More than 700 people participated in the race last summer and Northeast Georgia Cancer Care helps sponsor the event, Liebowitz said. In addition, the practice gives the nonprofit office space for free.
On March 1 is another fundraiser, the Cocktails for a Cause at the Hotel Indigo. Foundation supporters will get together "and just enjoy hanging out," Liebowitz said. On tap are a live auction, a silent auction, two drink tickets and heavy hors d'oeuvre. Some 175 people attended last year; Liebowitz is hoping for 200 this year.
"There are so many people who, if they don't work, they can't pay their bills," she said. "We get calls from people across the country, all the time, asking if we can help them. I tell them I'm sorry, but we serve only 18 counties."