Today I went to a luncheon. Go to many luncheons? Yeah, me neither. But every year, the organization to which my mother devotes much of her time has a big donor luncheon. This was their 49th such event. Let me back up a little. The organization is called Mildred Mindell Cancer Society. Mildred was the sorority advisor for a group of high school girls in Baltimore. She was well-loved. When Mildred was sick with cancer, my mother was one of the young nurses who helped care for her. So were lots of women that my mother knew back then and that I now know. Mildred died. And the girls from the sorority joined together and started this group in 1957. They started the organization to raise money. Sure, there were people raising money to find a cure and all that. Even back then. And moreso now. But these women decided that there were comforts and needs that cancer patients had that just weren’t handled. Wigs, medications, rides. You get the picture. And for many years now, these women have raised over four million dollars for just that.
We know from Bowling Alone and from all the nonprofit trends and volunteer trends out there that membership organizations are losing members and aging. And though the Mildred Mindell group has some young members, I’d venture to say that my mother is the median age. (I won’t say how old you are, Mom. But I’m 44 and she was a couple years out of nursing school when I was born!) So realistically, this organization should be faltering.
And I thought that they were. But this group, at 50 years old, is far from collapsing.
The luncheon was nice. We had chicken and tuna salad, nice bread and a great dessert. There were h’or doerves first. You could buy a glass of wine. (I did.) I like a lot of my mom’s friends, and the conversation was light and lively. And many of the women dragged, I mean brought, their daughters along.
Today, they awarded $106,100 for DVDs, for teen awareness programs, for support groups, for summer camp for kids with cancer (so they can be kids – not kids with cancer for a week), for medications, for wigs and turbans, for taxicabs to chemo, for pain medications that aren’t covered and just can’t be afforded, for a new infusion bay with internet access and HDTV.
A woman who had been president in 1985 passed away this year after a 15 year battle with cancer. Her husband and four grown daughters spoke. Words can’t express the emotion in the room. She had been a friend of all the women there. My mom, a board member for many years now (and president, 2004) presented the donations that had been made for my grandmother when she died last summer.
I’ve been involved with charity work for a long time. But this isn’t a charity group. This is a community of women so filled with love and empathy that there is no way it won’t continue to grow and prosper.
They are living their mission: Participate and cancer ends.
The surveys and studies can’t tell you everything. Sometimes, amazing people just buck the trends.