Imagine being told “You have cancer.”
Then imagine that you have the choice between paying for treatment or paying your mortgage, or between paying for medications or paying your electric bill. Unfortunately, there are many cancer patients in Palm Beach County who face these choices every day.
The primary focus of the Cancer Alliance is to help these cancer patients, who live and/or receive treatment in Palm Beach County, with their ordinary living expenses such as rent and mortgage, utilities, auto and health insurance, car payments, food and other basic necessities. We have paid over $2 million to help cancer patients and their families and the demand keeps rising.
We have helped 2,000 patients and their families throughout Palm Beach County. Referrals come from the major cancer centers and the two hospices in Palm Beach County, the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure – South Florida, Palm Beach County Department of Health and the Palm Beach County Medical Society and other organizations, as well as local oncologists. We have assisted patients from newborns to age 92, from many races, religions and backgrounds, and with different types and severity of cancer.
Another initiative of the Cancer Alliance the “Community Cancer Council”, comprised of organizations that serve cancer patients in our community. The council is made up of over 90 groups from all over Florida. It has opened up lines of communication and created opportunities for networking and collaboration between groups.
Cancer Alliance was born out of one man’s recognition of need and his desire to meet it. Palm Beach County banker Charles Fischer served on both the national and local boards for a nonprofit cancer organization for many years. One of the programs he was most interested in gave emergency financial assistance to help cancer patients — and their families — while they were undergoing treatment. The program paid normal living expenses such as electric bills or mortgages to keep families functioning through that tough time.
When the national organization eliminated the program, Charles, plus the local Board and its Executive Director Jean Brown, saw how dire the need was for assistance. When a diagnosis of cancer was given to patients, they still would phone the organization seeking help, only to be told that assistance was no longer available.
Soon, Charles, Jean and the Board began hearing about patients who were losing their residences, having their utilities turned off or their cars repossessed because of the financial stress they were experiencing while undergoing cancer treatment.
This small group shared their concern for the struggling patients with friends and acquaintances who expressed a desire to help. Because Charles had friends who had started a similar nonprofit organization in Naples, the group attended several board meetings and fundraisers to see how it worked. That set the wheels in motion for a new nonprofit in Palm Beach County — focused purely on meeting the financial needs of cancer patients who are undergoing treatment.
Charles and this local group of concerned citizens applied for a 501(C)(3), received it three months later, then started the Cancer Alliance of Help and Hope. In the decade since that modest beginning in 2003, this grassroots nonprofit organization has helped over 1,000 cancer patients and their families.