Wow! What a Year It’s Been!
By Becky Olson, President, Breast Friends
We are so excited to be completing our second year on such an awesome note. Since our inception in August of 2000, we have accomplished things beyond our dreams.
Breast Friends, born over lunch at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland, began as a simple idea of trying to help women, newly diagnosed, with breast cancer. We had no idea that day, where we would go. We had no road map. But we had passion, and lots of it. We were born with the gift of gab, we only needed a message. We were both blessed with a message, surviving breast cancer. It was time to put both the gift and the blessing together.
We had heard once that for an idea to come to reality you need to take some action within 48 hours. So, that same day, Sharon Pickthorn and I drove home from that meeting, each to our own respective offices, and did our part. I called the Secretary of State’s office and verified that the name, Breast Friends, was available. It was, so I reserved it. Sharon went on-line to register a URL for a yet to be designed web-site (yes we were thinking big already!) We then picked up the phone, called each other and said “OK, that’s done. Now What?”
We began meeting by phone every few days to talk about what was missing in the world of breast cancer outreach. We began focusing on our own experiences with breast cancer and realized that it was the support for the patient through their friends and family that needed a little work.
We began to zero in on a message of support and outreach to the friends and family members. We felt that if we could teach people the importance of staying in touch with their loved ones and acquaintances who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, we would ultimately help the patient. Shortly thereafter, our mission statement was launched, “Helping Women Survive the Trauma of Breast Cancer… One Friend at a Time.”
We filed our Non-Profit Corporation with the State of Oregon in December of 2000. We were finally a legitimate organization. Now we only needed to figure out how to deliver our message.
It was a simple message delivered through a unique method. We decided we go out and talk to women’s groups and organizations or anywhere that anyone would listen to our message.
Our first speaking engagement was at the Columbia County Women’s Health Fair in May of 2001. We had no idea what to expect, but there were over 100 people in attendance. We had the floor for 30 minutes. I remember so well, the nervousness we both felt as we packed up our gear, made the 45 minute drive to Scappoose and began setting up our “props” which included two stools, a music stand for our notes, a sound system, a tape player, my wig, photo album, hat, handouts, my husband and his guitar. What a spectacle we must have been. I’ll never forget the moment at the end of the meeting when people stood in line to talk to us. The last woman in line, finally after a long wait, told us that our message had released years of guilt she had felt. She had been living overseas while a friend of hers had been sick here in the U.S. She was unable to fly home. But she made a point of calling her, frequently. When her friend died, she felt guilty that she hadn’t done enough for her. After hearing our message that night, that one of the most important things you can do for someone going through breast cancer is pick up the phone and call, she suddenly felt that maybe what she had done was perfect. We cried and hugged as she told her story, and it confirmed in our hearts that we were on the right track.
Since that event, several things began to fall into place:
- In June of 2001, we established a terrific Board of Directors who helped us lay the ground work for our organization.
- In October of 2001, we applied for our 501c3, federal tax exemption
- In November of 2001, we received our approval letter from the I.R.S. (which means all your donations are now fully tax deductible)
- In February of 2002, we opened our office in Tigard, OR.
We had a few speaking engagements here and there, but our big moment, our break-out party if you will, happened in September, 2001 at the Susan G. Komen Health Expo. As a booth sponsor, we had a chance to talk to hundreds of women, many of them breast cancer survivors or friends of survivors, and tell them who we are and what we do. We sold T-shirts and handed out flyers, printed on our home computers and folded by volunteer board members.
We made many contacts that day. One of them, Brenda Plinke, R.N., has joined our organization’s Executive Committee. She has taken on a project that we also adopted that same day. We’re still working out the details, and you’ll hear more in our next newsletter.
We just celebrated our two-year anniversary since our inception, and our one-year anniversary since our break out party at the Komen Health Expo. So far this year, we have built many partnerships with the under-served population, including:
- R.O.S.S. (Russian Oregon Social Services).
- The Hispanic Community Outreach, headed by Clara Welsch L.C.S.W. (Now a member of our Executive Community)
- “Bridging the Gap” outreach for male breast cancer survivors
- Created a “Young Care Givers Group” – Program headed by Melissa Hoogendoorn from Seattle, Washington.
- Washington County Department of Aging and Veteran’s Services.
We are working on several other program outreach partnerships and will have more to report later.
As we bring this year to a close, we can look back in awe at all the things God has blessed us with, especially for all the people that have come into our lives because of Breast Friends. We look forward to all the things He will bless us with next year.
You might wonder how we came up with the name of our newsletter, “Jabizness News.” It comes from the “Prayer of Jabez.” It’s a simple prayer, “Lord, bless me, enlarge my territory. Keep your hand upon me that I may not cause harm.” Every time we meet someone, and it is often, who helps us enlarge our territory, we call those meetings “Jabizness Meetings.” My husband came up with that phrase after a discussion of the power of prayer. This newsletter is part of that expansion. A young woman, Barbara Moody, happened to contact us through Volunteer Match. She was interested in our program and wanted to help. It just so happens that we had been talking about creating a newsletter. She just so happens to have a great deal of experience in newsletters. She is now our newsletter editor. Coincidence? We think not.
We hope you find comfort and support in those around you this holiday season. If you need a friend, be a friend first.
We want to thank the community for all its support this year. We look forward to next year. Wow! What a year it will be.
President and Co-founder Sharon Pickthorn
Executive Director and Co-founder