Anyone who has had cancer, or knows someone with cancer, understands the needs of those with the disease, and that was the basis for the formation of Cancer Support Center of Maine, based in Bucksport and serving residents of Penobscot, Hancock and Waldo counties.
Barbara Vittum, the organization’s executive director, was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. Now in remission, “every day is a good day,” she said.
She told me all of the organization’s board members either have had cancer or supported someone with cancer.
Martha Ohrenberger of Penobscot is board president and Theresa Soucy of Bangor is vice president; Jane Atherton Leopold of Sandy Point is secretary; Cecelia Ames of Bucksport is treasurer; and Linda Morneault of South Portland and Dr. Linda Yelland of Milford are the directors.
Barbara told me she had tremendous support from friends during her illness, and that her surgeon pointed out that “everyone didn’t have that going through what I did, and it sparked us to think about doing something.
“I sort of made an agreement with the big guy upstairs that I would go to college and be an advocate [for those with cancer] and start a program,” Barbara said.
Which is just what she did.
Cancer Support Center of Maine, opened in May 2009, has its tax-deductible nonprofit designation and is in the midst of its $100,000 “We can Yelp — You Can Help” campaign.
And while the campaign is far from reaching its goal, Barbara is not the least bit discouraged.
The money may not be rolling in, but the help and support are, she said.
“Many people are now stepping forward to volunteer for a variety of things, and we really appreciate those volunteers.
“We’re still striving to meet our goal, and we’ve been helping some folks,” which is, after all, the purpose of the program.
“We’re a small, grass-roots organization helping one person at a time,” she said.
Barbara said she’s “noticing that with the economy being the way it is, our clients are hit not only financially, but physically.”
“If we think we have problems, they have a double whammy. Their needs are great.
“But what is really awesome is that a lot of people are starting to volunteer, and this is really a community-based organization.”
Often if you are ill and unable to work, that affects such things as vehicle payments and maintenance, so Barbara is pleased people are offering to give rides to those in need.
Other volunteers have offered to “help clean up the yard so we can hold events here,” she said.
“We’ve had a sign painted for us; people are donating plants and time and labor; the office space and electrical work was donated” and people also are “offering to cook for events for us,” she added.
There are two fundraising events for the center this month.
The first is a night at the theater.
The New Surry Theatre will perform “Damn Yankees” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 12, at the air-conditioned Blue Hill Town Hall Auditorium.
Tickets are $25 and can be purchased by calling Cancer Support Center of Maine at 469-6363.
Half the proceeds will benefit CSCM and half will benefit the theater.
Barbara credits her friend former English professor and theater board secretary June Carter with initiating this fundraiser and enlisting the support of theater director Bill Raiten.
The second fundraiser, courtesy of hostess Gina Bushong, is a barbecue picnic from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 19, at Alamoosook Lakeside Inn on Soper Road in Orland.
Tickets for this event are $25 and are available at Frank’s Bake Shop in Bangor, Cancer Support Center of Maine and BookStacks in Bucksport or by calling CSCM at the number above.
This fundraiser will feature a chicken barbecue with all the fixings, with beer and wine available for purchase and entertainment by local musicians.
You can eat inside or, if you want, bring your own blanket and dine outdoors beside the lake.
If you cannot attend either event but would like to contribute to the organization, send your donations to Cancer Support Center of Maine, 147 Main St., Bucksport 04416.
For more information, call the number above or visit www.cancersupportcenterofmaine.org.
Joni Averill, Bangor Daily News, P.O. Box 1329, Bangor 04402; email@example.com; 990-8288.