Charity drive to benefit cancer patients

ContributedKirsty Roefs, owner of House of Consignment in Unadilla, stands Wednesday with collected cancer care items and port pillows.

Kirsty Roefs, a Unadilla resident and owner of House of Consignment, has been hosting monthly charitable collection drives since November 2015.

This month, Roefs is making area cancer patients the drive beneficiaries because, she said, a previous cancer care drive fostered such strong community support and made a significant impact. Roefs has partnered with the Bassett Cancer Treatment Center of Oneonta to distribute the collected goods.

Now through January’s close, Roefs is accepting donations of unscented lotions, stationery, word puzzles and adult coloring books, hard candies, pens and pencils, lip balms, refillable water bottles and more. Roefs also hosted a sewing bee Sunday, where 28 port pillows were made for cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy infusions.

The list of suggested items, Roefs said, is based on input from cancer survivors.

“The last time we did this,” Roefs said, “I reached out to cancer patients … to find out what they really wanted or needed.” She added, “I’ve had a lot of the people that received packages thank me and (say) they were grateful (for) a pick-me-up during a rough time. That’s actually how we figured out the perfect size for the port pillows.”

The handmade pillows, Roefs explained, are designed to fit around a car seat belt, cushioning the strap where it could otherwise press on a patient’s protruding medi-port, the device through which chemotherapy treatment is delivered.

Sidney resident Heather Bucalos, a registered nurse, was one of the first to receive a port pillow from Roefs, during her 2015 battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bucalos, 33, said the port pillow was a small thing that made a big difference.

“I thought it was really genius and … very simple and easy to use,” Bucalos said. “To have (the port pillow) was convenient, but to think that someone else would think of people (with) tiny, specific needs like that, it just goes to show that (Roefs) is very caring.”

Roefs estimated that, with the help of family, friends and community members, several hundred port pillows have been previously made and distributed.

“We’ve probably made 400 of those things,” she said. “They’ve gone everywhere.”

Brenda Flowers, a registered nurse and team leader at Bassett Cancer Treatment Center in Oneonta, said she witnessed the impact Roefs’ care packages had in the past and is eager for this year’s distribution.

“Once (Roefs) gets everything together … we’ll hand it all out to patients, mostly those undergoing treatment,” Flowers said, “and you do not have any idea how happy it makes them.”

Flowers, who estimated the Oneonta branch clinic sees an average of 200 cancer patients weekly, said, without exception, recipients have been pleasantly surprised by the care packages.

“The common denominator is people saying, ‘I can’t believe someone who doesn’t even know me would do this for me,’” she said. “That gets repeated over and over again … and it really says a lot.”

That the packages include things cancer patients have real use for, alongside notes and “extras,” Flowers said, makes them that much more meaningful.

“These are things (patients) really need … and they’re in a nice box with personal items,” Flowers said. “It just makes people happy … and it makes them feel special.” She added, “This (drive) really is good. It’s got a lot of pluses.”

The community’s response to this and every drive, Roefs said, has buoyed her efforts.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said, “and it just keeps building momentum, so each drive gets better and bigger and helps more people.” Looking through a nearly full tote of cancer care items last week, she added, “I’m so excited about the stuff people have been donating. It’s so reassuring … and this is just within a few days of launching.”

Roefs said she plans to continue hosting monthly collection drives because of the difference she sees being made.

“I (do this) because there are so many people that want to help and they just need a way to do it,” Roefs said. “It doesn’t require that much of me, but it makes such an impact, especially locally.” Past drive beneficiaries, she said, have included the New York State Veterans Home at Oxford, Opportunities for Otsego, the Binghamton chapter of Volunteers of America, Delaware Valley Humane Society and the Family Resource Network of Oneonta.

House of Consignment, located at 214 Main St., Unadilla, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Roefs encouraged donors to stop by during business hours. She also encourage those interested in receiving a pillow port may reach her at the shop. For a complete list of cancer care items to contribute, find House of Consignment on Facebook.


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