SWEDEN VALLEY -- Volunteers That Care, a non-profit organization, has been helping cancer patients with transportation costs since 2012.
The group holds fundraisers throughout the year to raise money which is then used to purchase gas cards. Each gas card is $100 and is given to someone who either lives in Potter County and is receiving treatment for cancer or someone who may not be from the county but is receiving treatment at the Patterson Cancer Center at UPMC Cole in Coudersport.
Volunteers That Care routinely raises $10,000 each year and in turn can help 100 people with costs associated with driving to and from treatments. The organization usually has fundraisers such as a Bingo Night, a spaghetti dinner or raffles, but the group also relies on donations. Recently, the Ulysses Legion donated $2,200 and the Ladies Auxiliary Post 192 donated $1,000.
Linda Bretz, president of Volunteers That Care, has an office at the Patterson Cancer Center through the American Cancer Society. Bretz is able to make contacts there and give gas cards to those who need it. There isn’t any real “eligibility” other than to either be from or receiving treatment in Potter County and be receiving treatment for cancer, she said.
Bretz will always take into consideration the circumstances the patient is under. They often will refer patients to local food pantries and give them ways to reduce their cost of medications, in addition to giving them a gas card.
“The problem with cancer is that it isn’t just a one time thing,” Kathy Kinard, vice president, said. Treatment is expensive without considering in additional costs, like transportation and gas.
Bretz is the only one who gives out the gas cards and the whole organization operates under HIPAA, so all personal information remains private. People can give referrals to Bretz, though she won’t confirm or deny if they have already or will receive a gas card.
The group also buys wigs for patients. Bretz said the office at the hospital is full of wigs from the American Cancer Society, but if a patient doesn’t see one there they like, the group will buy them one they do like.
The group was formed because Bretz and Kinard saw the unmet needs of cancer patients through personal experience. Bretz’s granddaughter was diagnosed with brain cancer and Kinard was receiving chemotherapy for cancer herself. They talked about their situations together and later presented the idea to have a non-profit that supplies cancer patients with gas cards. A local Legion donated $10,000 to get them started and it’s been a success ever since.
Bretz and Kinard said the organization is seeking new members. To become a volunteer or for more information, attend their meetings 5:30 p.m. the first Monday of the month at the Sweden Valley Grange, or call Linda Bretz at 814-203-0889 or Kathy Kinard at 814-331-1048.