Five highly respected local cancer support nonprofits —Gilda’s Club Desert Cities, Desert Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen Inland Empire, Pendleton Foundation, and American Cancer Society—are dedicated to serving all those in the Coachella Valley whose lives have been impacted by cancer. They understand that patients as well as their families will need a great deal of support as they embark on the journey that starts when someone hears those three dreaded words, “You have cancer.”
But these dedicated nonprofits realize that not everyone is aware of the numerous no-cost services available to them (emotional, educational and social support, funding for medical care, and monies to pay for essentials like gas and groceries while undergoing cancer treatment, to name just a few.) Nor do people always know how to access these services.
That’s why Gilda’s, Desert Cancer Foundation, Susan G. Komen and Pendleton firmly believe they are “Better Together for Community,” and have formed a powerful collaborative by that name.
Spearheaded by Gilda’s Club President and CEO Maria Elena Geyer, “Better Together for Community” recently applied for—and has just been awarded—a $30,000 Mental Health Initiative Grant from the Regional Access Project (RAP). The grant’s purpose: to help the collaborating organizations increase awareness of mental health concerns at various stages of cancer. It funds a public awareness and information-sharing project, outreach to several target populations, and creation of new and improved communications tools for the outreach efforts.
The first population group the collaborators will target is eastern Riverside County residents who are most likely to require the emotional (mental health) support services provided by Gilda’s Club: those currently impacted by cancer or who are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer, with a focus on un- or under-insured individuals and older adults. The second population group includes African-American and Hispanic residents impacted by cancer, as these groups have high cancer rates but are often underserved.
Among the communication tools being developed are culturally sensitive written materials in English and Spanish that clearly present information about all of the collaborating agencies’ services. Also in development: a new mobile-friendly Gilda’s Club website that will enable more Riverside County residents to access information about Gilda’s and the other Coachella Valley cancer support resources.
Another important part of the project is to hold community awareness events. In the project’s second phase, these will include outreach events in somewhat isolated and/or low-income communities such as Desert Highland in Palm Springs and, in the East Coachella Valley, Coachella, Mecca, Thermal and Oasis.
Partnering with the City of La Quinta, “Better Together for Community” held a first cancer outreach event last fall on La Quinta’s Civic Center campus. On Saturday, January 30, 2016, the second “Better Together for Community” outreach event will take place at the same location, and everyone from throughout the Coachella Valley is invited to participate.
The outreach event begins at 10 a.m. with a walk around the Civic Center, then a chance to sign giant white ribbons honoring or remembering loved ones. Afterwards, in the Amphitheater, attendees can hear guest speakers and enjoy music and refreshments. And most important of all, there will be lots of opportunities to gather information about what all the participating organizations offer to anyone impacted by cancer.
You don’t have to face cancer alone, say “Better Together for Community” partners, and they are ready to make sure everyone on the cancer journey in the Coachella Valley is well served.