Breast Cancer Foundation of Ozarks taking on greater role

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Area agency puts funds into services like free mammograms

A partner and a strong ally in time of need, the Breast Cancer Foundation of the Ozarks (BCFO) has become increasingly important in Barry and Lawrence counties.

The Springfield-based agency, founded in 2000, has played a more and more important role in the lives of cancer patients and their families, both in fighting the disease and fighting its enduring its effects.

On July 21, the BCFO held a free screening mammogram event in Monett, partnering with Cox Monett Hospital. BCFO paid for 42 screening mammograms.

BCFO has 15 contracted sites covering all 32 counties in southwest Missouri and general four-state area. It has contracts with Cox Monett Hospital (417-235-3144), Mercy Hospital —Aurora (4170678-2122) and Mercy Hospital — Cassville (417-847-6000) to provide free screening mammograms at all locations, covering Lawrence and Barry counties.

"Word is getting out,” said Jill Gold, registered nurse and director of programming for the BCFO. “We're getting lots of applications and we're able to fund all of those. We provide non-medical, financial support with mortgage/rent, utilities, car payments and car repairs to give a few examples. We also have a Children’s Fund to help dependent children in the home with clothing, school supplies, daycare expenses, orthodontic payments — just to name a few.

“Our other programs include a Branson area support group, one-on-one mentoring and, of course, our free screening mammogram program."

The BCFO is largely supported by individual donations, primarily in the Springfield area. Gold said grants have been made possible by the Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP), which provided tax credits for another project that became a donation to the foundation. Gold said federal supervisors of the NAP grant program "loved the idea" of funding mammograms for free with NAP funds.

The BCFO also operates five license offices: the one on Glenstone in Springfield, as well as those in Nixa, Ozark, Republic and Joplin.

The BCFO held its biggest fundraiser, an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed dance at University Plaza Convention Center in Springfield.

"We sold 468 tickets and raised $46,800 out of the raffle,” Gold said. “All that will go into screening mammograms.”

The unique feature about BCFO, unlike most charitable organizations, is that the BCFO will work with local organizations to target donations for specific individuals. Local groups can hold a fundraising event with the BCFO to benefit a specific family, and the proceeds will all go toward the person in need.

In 2017, the BCFO provided $33,770 to 18 families in Lawrence County. So far in 2018, the total is $11,431 to 10 families.

In Barry County, the BCFO funneled $27,815 in financial assistance to 13 families in 2017. To date in 2018, 10 families have received $11,431.

In addition to free mammograms and financial assistance, services also include mentoring programs, support groups, free lymphedema garments and community education.

"Most insurance covers therapy for lymphedema, but not the garments," Gold said. "Following surgery, often the lymph system is disrupted and patients can have swelling in their arms that's very painful. Compression garments range in price from $100 to $800. Either insurance won't pay for garments or won't buy enough of them. The garments are essential for the patient's comfort and use of their arms."

At present, the BCFO is emphasizing its mammogram program, which has doubled in size over the past two years, primarily because of grant funding and generous donations. The recent event in Monett brought in more than 40 women. Gold stressed individuals do not have to wait for an event to take advantage of the service. She said women can apply online, request an application for assistance by mail by calling the main BCFO office number at 417-862-3830.

There are two public service announcements encouraging breast screenings running on television presently. One, with a breast cancer surgeon, is running courtesy of the Youngblood auto dealership. Another, where children are encouraging moms to get mammograms, has proven especially effective.

"We are very proud to be able to offer free screening mammograms to the uninsured/underinsured women in our covered areas," Gold said. "Screening mammograms provide early detection of breast cancer, and early detection is the key to increasing the survival rate for breast cancer."

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