Members of the Disbursement Committee include Roxanne Major (left) and Ruthann Fabrizio (right). Other members are Marta Ramsey, Mayer Thayer and Connie Gagnon. (COURTESY PHOTO)

CONWAY — Jen’s Friends Cancer Foundation was formed 22 years ago to ease the financial burden of cancer patients and their families who are uninsured, underinsured or financially challenged, and living in the greater Mount Washington Valley area of New Hampshire and western Maine.

Named in memory of Jennifer Hill, a valley resident for whom the first Climb Against Cancer was held in 1998, this foundation is managed entirely by volunteers, and uses 100 percent of all donations to provide financial assistance to cancer patients.

Nurses and social workers formed a committee within Jen’s Friends to review applications to learn of the specific needs of each person requesting financial help.

“Serving on the disbursement committee you truly see the stress and concern that comes with dealing with the diagnosis of cancer,” said Ruthann Fabrizio, who has been a board member since 1998.“Add to this the many hidden costs that come with the disease, the amount of travel that is involved for treatments and medical appointments, and it piles up quickly. Cancer is expensive.”

Although financial aid does not cover medical bills, it covers everyday expenses such as housing, utilities, and groceries.

The number of families receiving assistance has increased each year. In 1999, Jen’s Friends helped 20 families, spending a monthly average of $5,000. This year, the foundation is spending an average of $24,000 each month helping 70 families.

But assistance often goes beyond these daily living expenses. Disbursement Committee members, who have lived in the valley for many years, know who or what businesses may be able to fulfill a patient’s needs.

One family needed their furnace fixed. After the business owner made the repair, he never sent a bill to Jen’s Friends. Another patient needed heating fuel. While Jen’s Friends ordered 200 gallons, the supplier sent a bill for only 100 gallons. A veteran had to travel to Boston twice a week for treatments during the winter months. His car needed snow tires, so Jen’s Friends contracted with a local auto shop. The owner charged only half price for the tires and nothing for labor.

Other requests have been for home repairs, firewood and snow removal.

Committee member Marta Ramsey explained: “When a need arises, we seem to almost always find a solution. One family needed a refrigerator. A local family was doing a kitchen renovation and told us that we could have it for the family on a certain date. When their project ran behind schedule, they just went out and bought this family a brand-new one!”

Unlike other non-profit organizations, Jen’s Friends goes far beyond financial aid, by giving emotional support as well, with monthly phone calls. Each committee member becomes the patient’s contact while they are receiving financial assistance. Currently, each nurse is the contact for 16 to 18 families.

Roxanne Major said, “The best part of the disbursement committee is talking with the families, and hearing first-hand how their journey is going, the good and the bad, and the relief and thankfulness the families express when we make a plan to help with expenses.”

Jen’s Friends’ major fundraiser, the Climb Against Cancer, was originally scheduled for Sept. 19, 2020. However, due to coronavirus, this event has gone virtual! Go to jensfriends.org for details on how to participate, anytime and anywhere, now through Sept. 19.

To learn how you can apply for assistance, call 603-356-5083, or go to jensfriends.org. Jen’s Friends Cancer Foundation is a registered not-for-profit organization in the State of New Hampshire with federal 501(c)(3) status. All donations to Jen’s Friends are tax deductible, and all funds are used to ease the financial and emotional burden of cancer patients so they can focus on battling cancer.

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