Harbor of Hope offers support for cancer survivors

By Monroe Roark

Special to the Times

The journey to becoming a breast cancer survivor is something that likely cannot be appreciated by someone who has not walked it.

Harbor of Hope Board of Directors help staff the boutique. L. to r. are Mildred Schmelz, Sonia Ray, Vicky Batten, Shirley Johnson, Maria Stuccio, and Teresa Garmon. Photo by Mickie Jackson

A group of ladies who have done exactly that recently formed a new organization that they hope will equip them to have a positive impact on others who must go down that same road.

Harbor of Hope began when a local woman was asked by her doctor to lead a breast cancer support group for women over the age of 40. At the outset, Dr. Scott Timbert allowed them to meet at his own office.

“I was just encouraging women,” said Teresa Garmon when asked if she knew what the effort would entail. “God had me on a mission. I had already started ministering at my oncologist’s office to all cancer patients, just encouraging them and giving out devotional books. I just wanted to encourage women and let them know there was life after cancer.”

It was through those initial meetings, which began in late 2011, that a group of women came together to form what is now the board of Harbor of Hope: Garmon (the current president), Sonia Ray, Shirley Johnson, Mildred Schmelz, Vicky Batten, Maria Stuccio and Sandy Adams.

Over the past three years the ladies have just tried to help others, sometimes through financial means as well as just encouragement. While raising funds informally with yard sales and at a local flea market, they gave gift cards to patients who needed help with gas or a utility bill.

“We all decided to reach out to other women going through this journey,” said Garmon. “It’s a hard place to be, especially if you don’t have the support. To have someone who has walked through what you are about to walk through can give you a lot of hope.”

The official formation of Harbor of Hope, now a recognized nonprofit, was completed in the fall of 2014.

“It was because people started wanting to give us money,” said Ray. “That kind of pushed us to continue to do what we were doing, but we had to become an organization so we could accept more donations.”

In addition to monthly support meetings at Piedmont Henry Hospital, every second Thurs-day at 6:30 p.m. in the Education Center, the hospital has donated space for a boutique where women can acquire wigs and other accessories needed as a result of cancer treatment. Everything in that shop is free, and it is staffed by volunteers who meet clients by appointment only.

The meetings have seen crowds of up to 60 or more, and the group has had activities at various times of the year which allow caregivers and spouses to fellowship with each other as well. Harbor of Hope is working hard to inform the community about all of the cancer wellness programs provided by Piedmont Henry, nearly all of which are free of charge as well.

In-kind donations are accepted as well as cash, and a web site will be up and running soon with more information. For now, anyone who wishes to make a cash or in-kind donation as well as those in need of Harbor of Hope’s services can contact harborofhopesurvivors@gmail.com.