The Cancer Awareness and Support committee provides direct support for individuals diagnosed with cancer and their families, partnering with several nonprofit organizations to educate the underresourced community about the importance of cancer awareness and prevention through both awareness and support events. Below is one volunteer’s story of how she turned her compassion for the committee’s mission directly into action.
The past few months I’ve spent significantly more time volunteering with our new community partner Breast Treatment Task Force (BTTF). Periodically BTTF asks for volunteers to meet with women at their doctor’s appointments. My first experience with this was life-changing.
I traveled up to Harlem to meet a woman named Jessica. A young woman walked in and the receptionist pointed her in my direction. She said hello, apologized for being late due to the trains, and nervously chatted with me. Jessica is 31 years old, has no insurance, and works as an artist in the city. She felt a lump in her breast doing a self-exam and went to Planned Parenthood where they referred her to BTTF. I explained how BTTF would help her through this entire process and I was here for whatever support she needed. When she stood up, I told her I’d be here waiting when she got out. She gave me a look of gratitude that I can still see in my mind weeks later.
After her appointment, she came out and shared the good news. The doctor thought it was nothing but she would have a follow-up appointment in a few months. I smiled and asked if she wanted a hug. She threw her arms around me and we stood there, two strangers, hugging in the waiting room. I’m sure she was so scared with all the “What ifs?” After her appointment, we walked together to the subway and she thanked me again as we went our separate ways.
Later, I received a text: “Hi Shannon. It’s Jessica. Just wanted to thank you again for meeting me at the clinic. Knowing strangers care is really important especially in this city. Means a lot!”
I met another woman this week in Chinatown. She is also 31 and was so nervous when I arrived. Pam is an art teacher with a nonprofit organization. She does not have health insurance. Pam told me she had felt like she was going to pass out when the doctor told her during her annual appointment that he had found a lump. She nearly cried in the waiting room telling me she hadn’t been able to touch the lump all week as she waited for her mammogram. Pam was very appreciative that I was there to help with any questions but mostly for support during a stressful and scary time.
I am 31 years old. Breast cancer killed my great aunt. My great grandmother was a breast cancer survivor. My grandmother had a lumpectomy and is also a survivor. Sitting in the waiting room with Jessica and Pam was a reminder that I could be them. And if I were in their shoes, I too would want and need similar support.
I’m beyond grateful to the New York Junior League and BTTF for allowing me to support women in need and bring strangers a little closer. These experiences have been the most impactful in my Junior League tenure.
Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
Sadly, one in three women will experience domestic violence, and therefore support for those women is critical. On January 31, the Volunteer Education & Training and Crisis Intervention committees partnered together to introduce NYJL volunteers to an organization which provides this support.
Laura Fernandez, the Clinical Director at Sanctuary for Families, spoke to volunteers about the complex cycle of domestic violence, which is not always easily identified. Through her work with Sanctuary for Families, Laura provides leadership, management, and strategic direction for all of Sanctuary’s clinical services citywide including a team of over 40 clinicians, case managers, and support personnel. Through these clinical services, Sanctuary for Families supports victims and their families by providing a safe and caring environment.
Both Sanctuary for Families and the NYJL’s Crisis Intervention committee share a common goal: protecting victims and their families by ensuring their safety as well as providing a support network. The Crisis Intervention committee works with the Domestic & Other Violence Emergencies (DOVE) Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital to offer emotional support and information to and advocate for survivors of intimate partner violence, family violence, and sexual assault. Crisis Intervention co-chair Raven Carter spoke openly about the training NYJL volunteers receive, her work with DOVE, and the realities of supporting victims. Often, she says, “the most impactful support that can be offered is simply a volunteer’s presence.”
The New York Junior League is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of women, children, and families in our city of New York, and the Crisis Intervention committee focuses its efforts on those affected by domestic violence and sexual assault. Many survivors blame themselves for the violence they have experienced. Learning to love and be loved becomes a vital part of healing.
To support this healing process, Crisis Intervention plans an event each year to give survivors and their children an evening of respite, fun, and of course love: the Love Yourself Party. Survivors of violence are faced with such difficult realities and decisions as they try to put their lives back together that they rarely get the opportunity to care for themselves. This year’s event focused on being and feeling glamorous.
The committee wanted survivors to immediately feel special once they arrived at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. From the red carpet that led them to the space to boas, top hats, and jewels, every detail was designed to create a magical evening where all they had to do was show up. To top it off, GLAMSQUAD provided mini makeovers for our guests of honor. The feedback from survivors and staff at NewYork-Presbyterian was one of immense gratitude. It was our best event to date.
Through the effort of its staff and volunteers, the Domestic and Other Violence Emergencies (DOVE) Program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital is committed to providing free, compassionate, and comprehensive care to victims of violent crimes for ages 12 and above, including domestic violence, physical and sexual assault. The New York Junior League has been advocating for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault since the 1970s and in particular has been partnering with the DOVE program through the Crisis Intervention committee.
For more information: About DOVE
As part of the NYJL General Membership Meeting on Thursday, January 19th Anne Bahr Thompson, Chair of the 115th Anniversary Committee, provided a recap of our notable activities completed in celebration of our 115th year of service to New York City.
Anne began the evening’s presentation by reminding the audience of the committee’s key goal – to promote more engagement among all of our volunteers throughout the NYJL. “Our 115th Anniversary was centered on engaging all of our volunteers in the totality of our work. On connecting us through shared stories that remind us in large part of the impact and importance of our day-to-day work in the community,” she remarked in her opening comments.
She then highlighted a few of our key events:
• We kicked off and ended our 115th year celebrating Mary Harriman’s Birthday.
• We celebrated our community impact last January, “Then & Now” with four of our community partners – Stanley Issacs, WIN, Women’s Prison Association and SCAN – in a VTL.
• In May we hosted a Treasured Sustainer Luncheon bringing some of our longest-term volunteers back to the League
• On October 14 – 19 more than 400 volunteers contributed nearly 1500 hours of service Around the Community, Around the Clock. We worked with 29 different community partners on 62 different activities!
In total, 1,000 volunteers attended 115 events over the course of the year – which will go a long way toward ensuring that volunteers, community partners, and our fellow NYers continue to engage with us over the next 115 years and beyond.