Pennies add up for Cancer Service

By By BEN RAYMOND LODE / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- There's nothing like it in the State of Michigan, and perhaps even nothing like it in the entire country.
That's what Barbara Lane, executive director of the Berrien County Cancer Service's nursing staff, said about the cancer service's annual Pennies for Patients fund-raising campaign Thursday.
So far this year's Pennies for Patients has raised more than $22,500, but organization officials are still counting.
The organization is unique because it offers free nursing services for patients with an active diagnosis of cancer, and who live in Berrien County.
Besides Lane, who is one of three registered nurses working part-time for the organization, the organization has two nurses on call.
The Masonic Temple on 227 E. Main St., in downtown Niles houses the Niles branch of the organization, and was also this area's donation drop-off point during Thursday's fund-raiser.
The organization's main office is located in Stevensville.
Ruth Lagoni, Berrien County Cancer Service's office manager in Niles, said what makes the organization special is that all the money raised during the different fund-raising campaigns stays in Berrien County, that way benefiting the people who live here.
She said people have been enthusiastic about this year's Pennies for Patients fundraiser.
According to the organization's latest newsletter, the Pennies for Patients fund-raising campaign has during its 13 year history raised $149,574.86 for cancer care.
In 2002, 384 groups and individuals made donations.
The smallest donation ever received is 31 cents, with the largest group donation being $2,546.42 from a local school.
Fred M. Busse, M.D., of Niles, who works with the South Bend, Ind., Medical Foundation and also serves as the cancer service's president, said the Berrien County Cancer Service was established in 1948 and celebrated its 50th anniversary five years ago.
He said the Pennies for Patients fundraiser, which is the organization's biggest fund-raising campaign, however, didn't start until 1990.
But since then, Busse said there seems to have been a steady growth in donations.
He said last year the organization raised $27,609, compared to around $13,000 eight years ago.
On average, 90 per cent of each dollar donated goes to cancer care, he said.
Although fund-raising campaigns are crucial to the organization, Busse said 55 percent of the organization's total budget comes from United Way of Greater Niles and United Way of Southwest Michigan.
Len Amat, Community Bank President, Chemical Bank Shoreline-Niles, and one of the organization's 16 board of directors members, said the organization, however, has recently experienced a reduction in funding.
He said the center's marketing section, in an effort to raise more money, is trying to make more people aware of what the organization does and what it's goals are.
The Berrien County Cancer Center, which is not associated with any other national cancer organizations, in addition to their free nursing services, also help Berrien County residents with an active diagnose of cancer in obtaining wigs, beds and medical supplies.
Among the center's upcoming fundraising campaigns are: The Human Race on Saturday June 21, and a Bike Tour on June 22.
For more information on those events call: 269-429-3281.
You can also find more information on the organizations Web-site: www.Volunteerswmi.org.

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