MV Cancer Support Group, no one with cancer needs to be alone

Annemarie Donahue, a founding member of the MV Cancer Support Group, and Jane Carroll, president, at last year's fund raiser at the Granary Gallery. — File photo by Susan Safford

For those stricken with cancer and those closest to them, the emotional and financial burdens the disease imposes can weigh as heavily as the medical issues. The Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group, Inc. (MVCSG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping shoulder those burdens.

The MVCSG provides money and support services for those in need. It focuses on improving the quality of life for Vineyard cancer patients, their families and friends and it provides a source of information about resources available to Vineyard cancer patients on the Island and throughout New England.

Jane Carroll is MVCSG board president. Her husband died of cancer last summer. “We have no office and no paid staff, only a board that has nine members at this time,” she said in a recent telephone conversation with The Times.

The group has no overhead beyond the printing costs for informational brochures. All of their funds go to the hundreds of people they have helped.

“It was over 300 a few years ago,” said Ms. Carroll who speaks with enthusiasm about her work. “We have dealt with 12 applicants in the last two months.”

MVCSG provides emotional support services as well as temporary and emergency financial assistance to residents of the Island who are dealing with cancer. Last year the group gave out over $49,000 according to Ms. Carroll.

“We provide funds to those who need help with travel expenses to and from treatment and for other expenses not covered by insurance,” she said. “People needing help should apply. We do not judge.”

The financial aid request form does not ask for income or asset information. “We take people at their word, and we have not been stiffed,” Ms. Carroll said. “One person who was given $5,000 a few years ago donated the money back when he was able to.” She pointed out that MVCSG does not ask or expect to be paid back for the money they provide.

Small start

The MVCSG began, inauspiciously, in 1986 when a group of Island cancer patients started to meet regularly to share their experiences and hopes. A much-changed group continues to meet every Wednesday at noon in the library of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center on Center Street in Vineyard Haven. Ms. Carroll said that the number of people who attend varies from 5 to 20 and that they get new members all the time, although there are a couple of core members who make most meetings. There are applications for financial aid as well as lists of resources available at the meetings.

In 1996, the non-profit MVCSG was incorporated. The board of directors is made up of members of the community, many of whom are cancer survivors. The board meets monthly, reviewing and deciding on the applications for financial help and working on fundraising activities.

Funds needed

The MVCSG depends entirely on fundraising. “We are grateful for the many Island businesses that have contributed and to organizations that have held events to support us,” Ms. Carroll said. “We are grateful to the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank for the grants they have given through the Permanent Endowment Fund.” Fundraisers have been held by Farm Neck Tennis, an annual summer tennis tournament, and The Federated Church, which has an annual pancake breakfast in August.

MVCSG’s major fundraiser has been “An Evening under the Stars.” This year Lattanzi’s Restaurant in Edgartown will host the event on May 17 from 6 to 9 pm. Ms. Carroll said that last year’s event at the Granary Galley raised $19,000 after expenses.

“We are enthusiastic about our mission and are gratified that we have been able to assist hundreds of Island cancer patients and their families,” she said. “Our motto is ‘No one with cancer needs to be alone.'”

For more information on financial assistance or how to contribute, call 508-627-7958 or 508-696-9849, or visit their website at Application forms are available online. All inquiries are strictly confidential.