Breast Cancer Resource Center Is Helping to Navigate the Cancer Journey | Good for Santa Barbara

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November 30, 2020
| 4:00 p.m.

The annual “Global Day of Giving” is upon us this holiday season and what better way to give back to your community then joining in on #GivingTuesday by donating to the organizations that make Santa Barbara a place we are proud to call home.

Noozhawk is teaming up with local nonprofits to encourage you to take part in the international day of giving on December 1st, 2020. It is no secret that this year has been full of challenges. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic local nonprofits need your support now more than ever. Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this holiday season.

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Silvana Kelly, Executive Director at Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara, to learn more about how the nonprofit have been renewing the lives of cancer patients for well over 20 years.

Breast Cancer Research Center

Question: What is the name & mission of your nonprofit?

Answer: The Breast Cancer Resource Center of Santa Barbara serves to empower women diagnosed with breast cancer to advocate for themselves and make informed decisions, and receive emotional support to cope and learn to thrive to survive.

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service and whom was it started by?

A: We opened Nov 1997. BCRC was concieved by a group of survivors, health care professionals, and local organizations who convened to discuss the need for an independent community resource center devoted to the needs of breast cancer patients and caregivers.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?​

A: To foster hope by providing support services, educational programs and integrative therapies that help one cope with breast cancer. So one get though treatment, heal, maintain hopeful mindfulness and thrive.

Q:  How has COVID-19 impacted your nonprofit?

A: The BCRC found new and creative ways to connect with our clients, and quickly transition to offering programs and services in a virtual environment for the safety of our clients, where they have found a new community of mutual support. Our educational programs, peer-counseling, support groups, and wellness classes have all been provided in a virtual environment, including personal wellness outreach, and answering calls. Luckily, clients have found the transition smooth and welcomed in the safety of their homes. BCRC has created and established new practices to connect and will continue doing so in our path moving forward.

We are here to listen, offer a healthy perspective, soothe fears, offer coping tools, and equip clients with information so they feel confident in advocating for themselves. We help individuals find the strength to carry on and deal with the treatment process and healing. Families, caregivers and spouses have found support through the BCRC because cancer also affects the lives of those standing strong, supporting a loved one through their journey. The need to support and protect our clients is greater than ever before and the BCRC remains steadfast in our commitment to being there for every individual in need who is depending upon us.

This past year has shone a new light on the impact and importance of the BCRC. When we were unable to hold our annual Pink Lounge Gala, the BCRC organized PINK WEEK, a community centered educational webinar series during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. With the support of sponsors and donors we brought messages of hope, and important, relevant information about health and healing for our clients and community. It was a great success and a moving tribute to our ability to pivot, and the power of community coming together despite the pandemic.

Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

A: BCRC is solely funded by individual donors, private foundations, community businesses and corporations. We do not receive nor are we dependent upon government funding.

During the pandemic, the Breast Cancer Resource Center was forced to dip into its reserves to maintain operations and continue to provide all services free of charge. In order to ensure the BCRC can plan for the future and its services remain available to all who can benefit from its programs, is to rebuild our reserves and grow the BCRC endowment. Your financial support and family legacy will directly reverberate through time and affect those who will be dealing with this disease in the future to find support and heal from the inside out.

Q: In what ways does your nonprofit utilize it’s funding?​

A: All funds are put toward program services, outreach and overhead.

Q: Describe the changes that have been made to staffing models and internal operations due to COVID-19. Are there changes that are expected to last beyond the short term?

A: Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic. So neither can we.

Our clients continue to need support, counseling and healthy perspective on how to deal with the daily challenges brought on by surgery, chemo and radiation treatment and breast reconstruction – all while dealing with home life, family, work, and kids schooling.

How does one balance all this while in treatment? Clients going through treatment are more so isolated and social distancing is imperative. We understand this and moved programing to a virtual platform to allow clients to connect with each other for mutual support, and BCRC Staff safely, and compassionately.

Understanding that you are not alone in this cancer journey is fundamental to healing and knowing that you can get through each day. BCRC is here to offer uplifting support and guidance.

Q: What types of fundraisers and/or programs does your nonprofit run?

A: All BCRC are offered at no cost.

The following Programs & Services are now available virtually:

  • Lay Navigation & Peer-Counseling –provide emotional support / counseling, and guidance throughout continuum of cancer care through survivorship, assess needs and gather pertinent educational information, assist clients in accessing proper healthcare resources.
  • Field Education Outreach Program –work in Spanish speaking community to promote health awareness, breast health education and mammogram screening for early cancer detection.
  • LIVE, LEARN, LUNCH – a Survivor / Thriver wellness and special workshop sessions offers an enriching salon style and interactive take on a ‘brown bag’ course. It is designed to be engaging, fun and uplifting while learning something new and relevant. Every 1st Friday of month.
  • Mammogram Screening –financially assist women without insurance to obtain mammogram.
  • Integrative Therapy Program –provide distant Reiki treatment, Qigong, and Meditation, Sound Bath to promote healing and wellness.
  • Support Groups –for women with cancer: primary cancer, living with cancer, and ongoing post treatment for emotional support and navigation to social services.
  • Educational resources: Breast reconstruction, guidelines in screening, cancer research, treatment, etc.
  • Resource Library: information on breast health/cancer books, scientific articles, referral information.
  • Resource Helpline– Staff offer emotional support, proper resource or referral information.
  • Soup Kitchen distribution: Recognizing that many clients while in treatment are not working, and need an essential food and nutrition source, BCRC now acts as a site to provide soup.

– Personal Care: post operative care bag, hats, wigs, and breast prosthesis.

– Fresh cut Flowers provided every Monday for clients.

Q: Can you share one or two stories of individuals whose lives have been changed because of your organization?

A: “I am a mother of 2 young girls, and social worker at Hospice of Santa Barbara. At 38, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Throughout my mastectomy recovery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment, the Breast Cancer Resource Center was a vital source of support. I attended support group, utilized the library and amazing complimentary therapies. My favorite workshop “Romance of the Inner Self’ was about helping to heal, allow self-care and acceptance of the illness. It was a wonderful break from my treatment life, allowing me to be creative and reflective. I am so grateful to Donors that make it possible to provide free BCRC services and support.” -A.M, BCRC Client

“I wanted to take this time to express my gratitude to the BCRC for welcoming me into your community and offering the encouragement and hope we all need through this critical time. It seems that overnight our world changed to a new reality of social distancing and disruption, with the fears and threat of the Covid-19 virus. Daily contacts and connections disappeared. What could have pushed me into a sense of despair through this time of social withdrawal was mitigated by an invitation from my dear Santa Barbara friend, to join the online BCRC community. The online programs and support have given me a circle of friendship and networking not available locally. I feel embraced and part of your community even though I live across the country. An outpouring of support, comfort and positive spirit defines the BCRC and promotes individuals and a community to thrive! Your devotion, support, and efforts are appreciated beyond words.” – Vicky, BCRC Client, New Jersey

Q: Why should donors trust your organization and what can your organization offer donors in exchange for a donation?

A: BCRC is an independent, local grassroots organization. Every dollar donated stays in our community for the benefit of individuals dealing with breast cancer or breast health issues.

In 1997, a group of breast cancer survivors came together to talk about having a place where women and men could come to receive practical advice and emotional support addressing the realities of a breast cancer diagnosis. Today, with 23 years of service to the Santa Barbara community, the Breast Cancer Resource Center continues to stand at the ready with an unwavering message of hope and perseverance.

Click here to support Breast Cancer Resource Center.