By Harriet Schiftan, MSW, MAJCS
President and CEO
We are 120 days into a novel way of doing everything: cancer support, volunteering, fundraising, committee meetings, relationship building, and leadership development. We are well past the shock of having to work remotely, and we are not handwringing about how long we will be working from home while offering virtual cancer support groups and activities via teleconference. We have no time to agonize, because we have too much to accomplish.
From day one, our Program team moved straight into the headwinds of uncertainty and moved 45 cancer support groups to HIPAA-compliant Zoom lines. They then undertook the task of educating our group facilitators on how to use the helpful technology and offered one-by-one tutorials for many group participants. After all support groups had met at least once, our Program team next reached out to our volunteers who offer healthy lifestyle and movement classes – offering more technology tutorials to get this portion of our cancer support program up and running virtually. Each Friday, we send out a new Virtual Program calendar, offering ways for those we serve to connect, find support, and create community. Check it out!
In the last 120 days, we have:
• Offered more than 170 virtual mental health and emotional support group gatherings and offered more than 80 virtual classes aimed at reducing stress and improving self-care;
• Welcomed 63 new individuals who have gone through our cancer distress screening and assessment process to receive a customized support plan; and
• Received 1,123 requests for resources and referrals, which is the amount we typically receive in an entire year! To meet this need, Liz Geller, our Cancer Resource Specialist, compiled a Virtual Resources Guide in which she aggregated resources for self-care, financial needs, nutritional support, and more! We distributed this guide to more than 300 health care professionals and community partners.
During the last 120 days, we did not cancel any planned fundraising event. Our Marketing and Development teams, supported by Board leaders, innovated their way to a successful virtual Songwriters Night in May. Next, longtime Gilda’s Club volunteer Bruce Lyon hosted a virtual music night and volunteer/member Savanna Starko hosted a virtual run/walk. Both events were so much fun and generated much-needed revenue.
Our Red Door Bash committee and Silent Auction sub-committee have been meeting since January to design a once-in-a-lifetime virtual event, which raises 15% of our budget each year. Co-Chairs Victoria Marger and Rae Hirsch have created a Party-In-A-Box to be delivered to all Premier Table Hosts, who will be “hosting” a table in the comfort of their own homes. Be sure to join us September 3 for the Zoom cocktail hour, online auction, and live-streamed program, during which we will honor Julianne and Earl Fitz and Cathy and Clay Jackson, as well as present a special tribute to Felice Apolinsky on her retirement. Tickets to our biggest fundraiser of the year can be purchased here.
Our Golf Committee is also busy planning for another successful Gilda’s Club Golf Classic on October 12. Plan to bring a team, sponsor a hole, and enjoy a day at the beautiful Golf Club of Tennessee. (Contact our Director of Development Hayley Levy for details at email@example.com.)
Our Board leadership remains focused on supporting and sustaining our mission in the Executive Committee, Finance Committee, Governance and Nominating Committee, Development Committee, Marketing Committee, and Program Committee, all of which meet monthly. And our young professional’s Associate Board, led by Chair Anne Fletcher, is 24 members strong and continues to find inventive ways to support Gilda’s Club.
We are keenly aware that the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over and the economic impact in its wake has not yet been fully realized. Let us all stay safe and healthy using best practices for mitigation of transmission. And know that during this time, as long as it lasts, we will remain dedicated to delivering on our mission of providing free support, education, and hope to all people impacted by cancer, including family and friends of those diagnosed.