Monthly Archives: August, 2012

Profiles in Courage: August Lemonade Fund Grant Recipients

Lemonade Tales:

Profiles of Two Brave Women Who Received IBCERF (Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund) Grants this Month, August 2012.

N., a Russian-Jewish immigrant from the Sharon area, with 5 children, youngest of whom are 1 year old twins. Divorced and diagnosed in July with late-stage breast cancer. Undergoing chemotherapy treatment in order to shrink tumor prior to surgery. Unable to work due to side effects of treatment. Even with state benefits, family is near destitute. IBCERF (Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund) grant awarded, August 19, 2012.

A., an Israeli Arab woman from the north, with 3 young children, 1 with Down’s Syndrome. Married, husband lost his job within the last year. She had been the sole family support, working as a beloved member of the nursing staff at a large Israeli hospital for many years, until she was diagnosed with breast cancer that required a mastectomy, in July.  She will begin chemotherapy soon. The entire department where she works helped her with her application. IBCERFgrant awarded, August 19, 2012.

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Ella’s Thank You Letter

I, Ella, received from you, from the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund, a check, by way of the ESRA Welfare Fund.

I wanted to tell you, thank you very much!

This will help me a great deal with my finances, with medications that are not covered by insurance, with the many bus trips that I take to get to my treatments and the many things that are very essential in treating this illness.

I was so happy to receive the check!

Be well!

Thank you very much!

בס”ד

אני, אלה, קיבלתי מכם, מקרן שרי מנדס, צ’ק (דרך וועדת הרווחה של עמותת עזרא).
רציתי לומר לכם תודה רבה!
זה יעזור לי מאד לכלכלה, לתרופות שונות שאין להם כיסוי,
לאוטובוסים הרבים שאני לוקחת כדי לבוא לטיפולים
ולעוד הרבה מאד דברים שנחוצים לי מאד בטיפול במחלה.
מאד שמחתי על קבלת הצ’ק!

תהיו בריאים!

תודה רבה!

New Article about the fund in the Jerusalem Post!

From lemons to lemonade

08/11/2012 03:53

How one breast-cancer survivor is helping other women battle the disease with The Lemonade Fund.

Shari MendesPhoto: Courtesy

Jennah is a single mother being treated for breast cancer at an Israeli hospital. She can’t afford to travel to her sisters who live in distant towns, and she has to purchase medications that aren’t covered by her national insurance plan. Her situation was desperate until a hospital social worker helped her apply for a grant from “The Lemonade Fund,” a pet name for the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (IBCERF).

“To be ill and also suffer from poor financial conditions is extremely difficult,” Jennah wrote to the fund’s founder, Shari Mendes of Ra’anana. The grant enables her to visit her siblings when she needs them, purchase treatments for her chemotherapy side effects, and also buy her daughter books for school.

“This donation… gives me peace of mind and strength to continue to cope,” Jennah wrote.

Mendes firmly believes that easing the financial burden of breast-cancer patients also helps them heal.

“When you’re stressed about money, it’s hard to get well. If you could be calmer about your financial situation it could impact recovery. I think this helps just like medicine helps.”

Mendes inaugurated the fund on August 7, 2011, precisely 12 months after a routine mammogram revealed what turned out to be early-stage breast cancer.

“I received the news that I had breast cancer on the Ninth of Av, one of the saddest days of the Jewish year. It seemed fitting to do something positive on the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis – specifically on a day that addresses ways to heal after destruction,” says the architect and mother of four.

During a year of treatment that successfully put her cancer into remission, Mendes wondered how financially strapped women were managing the costs of the disease.

“I remember during the beginning of the process, being astounded at the ancillary expenses,” she says.

“I was lucky because I had disability insurance, but many women don’t have any cushion. It is expensive to be sick. You and your spouse lose time from work.

Maybe you need extra child care and cleaning help, and perhaps you have to buy prostheses and a wig, and medications that aren’t covered by [national health insurance].

“There are a million things, and I thought people shouldn’t also have to be in a financial crisis when they’re enduring the worst stress they’ve ever been through. I can’t help cure their cancer, but I can help alleviate their financial burden.”

Mendes talked to other women and to social workers at hospital breast-cancer centers, coming away convinced that nothing like what she envisioned existed in Israel. The Israel Cancer Society, for example, gives NIS 1,000 grants, and another fund aids Ethiopian immigrants suffering from cancer. Mendes wanted to give a significant amount, and specifically to those with breast cancer.

“We definitely saw a big need, because all the existing funds are very small and sometimes it takes a while for the money to arrive,” says Amalia Magen, head social worker at the Breast Center at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where the fund’s first five grantees are patients. “This fund came really exactly in time.”

“A woman who needs something like breast reconstruction must come to the hospital many times over a few months, and in the meantime she cannot move or function well,” she explains.

Grants range from NIS 1,000 to NIS 4,500, depending on need. To keep administrative and overhead expenses to nearly nil, Mendes incorporated IBCERF under the umbrella of the Herzliya-based non-profit ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association) Welfare Fund. Only two months later, with the help of NIS 50,000 she raised through a single e-mail blast to acquaintances and family, she was in business.

Very quickly, word of the Lemonade Fund spread, and applications are coming on behalf of women from all walks of life – Jews and Arabs, new immigrants and longtime Israelis. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Israel, with about 4,000 new cases every year.

Seeing that the need is greater than she anticipated, Mendes is now appealing for funds more publicly.

“Hospital social workers all over Israel have learned about the fund, and when a patient is desperately poor they urge them to apply. Many of these women are single with children, and they and their families suffer tremendously due to the additional burden of a serious illness.”

Adele Hunter, head of ESRA’s Welfare Committee, explains that ESRA has been giving to Israel’s needy for more than 20 years through social-welfare departments.

A committee comprised mainly of retired social workers screens applications every month.

“Shari’s fund is run along the same lines,” says Hunter. “We invite Shari to review the applications that come in from oncology department social workers.

Together we decide which ones meet the criteria and how much we can give.”

Mendes devised a rigorous application process, open only to those in their first year post-diagnosis.

“It’s important to me that it be transparent,” she says.

“We’re giving grants, not asking for money back, so we really need to vet the applications.”

Those who are accepted get a check a week later, and their hospital social worker receives a letter with all the details.

Magen says up to 30 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each month at Meir alone. She sends IBCERF applications only for women in the most severe straits.

“Now I have a 46-year-old woman who has four children – one with special needs – and an unemployed husband, and her salary was feeding the family.

Now she has to go through breast surgery and chemotherapy, and I’m so happy to tell her that maybe Shari Mendes can help her immediately – not only when the effects of the chemo get bad.”

Another Meir Medical Center patient, a lowincome, 32-year-old mother of a toddler and an infant, was diagnosed during pregnancy and is now facing a mastectomy. “She got help from the Lemonade Fund, and she didn’t know how to get through this otherwise,” says Magen. “The grants also help their spirits, to know someone wants to help them.

This has a big psychological impact.”

Mendes’ nickname for IBCERF refers to the philosophy of making sweet lemonade out of the sour lemons one receives in life. “I like the name ‘Lemonade Fund’ because that’s the message we try to transmit,” says Magen. “You have a great crisis, but from this you can rise above and realize the support you have, including your own strengths to cope. The fund can help you see a new opportunity.”

“Shari’s got a very open heart and really wants to make a difference,” adds Hunter. “If she had more money, she’d give more money.”

Mendes can be reached at israelbcerf@gmail.com or through the IBCERF page on Facebook.

Article in the New Jersey Jewish Standard re the Lemonade Fund

Article in the New Jersey Jewish Standard re the Lemonade Fund

The Lemonade Fund

Program in Israel helps women with breast cancer

Abigail Klein LeichmanLocal | World

Published: 13 July 2012

Its official name is the Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund (http://esra.org.il/israel-breast-cancer-emergency-relief-fund-ibcerf), but the Teaneck native who founded it prefers “the Lemonade Fund,” the nickname it’s gotten for sweetening the lives of needy women suffering from breast cancer.

The fund’s origin was a breast cancer diagnosis for Shari Mendes in July 2010, a few months short of her 50th birthday. She and her family had moved from Bergen County to the central Israeli suburb of Ra’anana seven years earlier. Her husband, David, was then chief of plastic surgery at Meir Hospital in Kfar Saba. (He’s now at Shaare Zedek.) Shari was busy running her architectural firm and had taken the time for a routine mammogram. She was surprised by the results.

image
Shari Mendes

While undergoing treatment, Mendes was consumed by two thoughts: First, she wondered how financially strapped women were managing the costs of the disease, ranging from medications, wigs, and prostheses not fully covered by national health insurance, to extra transportation and household help expenses.

“I was shocked to learn how extremely costly a serious illness can be,” she said. “I had so many new out-of-pocket expenses, and all I could think was to wonder how poor women could do this.”

Second, Mendes wanted to do something to mark her milestone birthday, whose celebration had been delayed by her treatment. She inaugurated the fund a year from the day she had her mammogram.

“I received the news that I had breast cancer on the Ninth of Av, one of the saddest days of the Jewish year,” she said. “It seemed fitting to do something positive on the one-year anniversary of diagnosis, specifically on a day that addresses ways to heal after destruction. Thank God, I’m doing fine and feeling fine.”

Mendes talked to other women and to breast cancer center social workers, coming away convinced that nothing like what she envisioned existed in Israel, despite the great need for it there. The Israel Cancer Society gives $250 grants, but she wanted to do more.

“Aside from worries about your illness, it’s so expensive to be sick,” she said. “You’re working less, and life costs more. By quickly and compassionately delivering direct financial assistance, some of the financial burdens that accompany breast cancer can be eased so that patients can concentrate on the more important challenge of getting well.”

Mendes learned that the Herzliya-based nonprofit ESRA (English Speaking Residents Association, http://www.esra.org.il) runs a welfare fund. She incorporated her Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund under this charitable umbrella, which allowed her to begin quickly and waste no money on overhead.

“It’s amazing how easy it is to just do something,” she said. “From idea to execution was two months.”

Within one month of launching, on Sept. 18, 2011, the Lemonade Fund awarded its first five grants, using some $12,000 that Mendes had raised by emailing “almost every woman I know.” Since then, she’s raised more through foundation and individual donations, many of them in memory of her father, longtime Teaneck resident Martin Greenwald, who died recently.

Somewhat reluctantly, she’s decided to go public with her appeal because the needs are even greater than she had anticipated.

“Hospital social workers all over Israel have learned about the fund, and when a patient is desperately poor they urge them to apply,” she said. “They have to supply financial information, and the social worker sends the application to ESRA for review.”

Adele Hunter, head of ESRA’s Welfare Committee, explains that ESRA has been giving to the needy, via social welfare departments throughout Israel, for more than 20 years. A committee composed mainly of retired social workers screens about 25 applications every month.

“Shari’s fund is run on the same lines,” Hunter said. “We invite Shari to come review the applications — about three to seven per month. Together we decide which ones meet the criteria and how much we can give. A week later, we send them a check directly, along with a letter to their social workers.”

The amount of each grant depends on how much has been raised, but it’s usually between 1,500 and 4,500 shekels.

“Shari’s got a very open heart and really wants to make a difference,” Hunter said. “If she had more money, she’d give more money.”

Mendes is struck by how diverse the applicants are. There are native Israelis as well as Ethiopian and Russian immigrants, Arab women, and religious and secular Jews.

Mendes received a letter from another woman, who wrote:

“I have no words to describe how much I thank you for your contribution … to be ill and also suffer from poor financial conditions is extremely difficult for me. … I am a single mother and I have many expenses; for example, buying drugs that aren’t covered by insurance to help me with the side effects of the chemotherapy. This donation helped me purchase these drugs and it is easier for me to deal with breast cancer treatment.”

Mendes said that one recent applicant particularly tugged at her heartstrings. “She’s an Israeli woman, orphaned at 12, abused as a teen, a single mother, and is now 42 and suffering from severe disease. She was a hardworking nursery school teacher but cannot work now and makes almost nothing. To give her 4,500 shekels is nice, but it’s a drop in the bucket. If I could give her 10,000 I could help save her life.”

That’s no exaggeration, she insists. “When you’re stressed about money it’s hard to get well. If you could be calmer about your financial situation it could impact recovery. I think this helps just like medicine helps.”

Make U.S. tax-deductible donations through the PEF Israel Endowment Fund, 317 Madison Ave. (Room 607), New York, N.Y. 10017. Checks should be made payable to “P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds.” Designate ESRA IBCERF on the memo line.

How to apply for help from the Lemonade Fund and how to give help.

If you know of a woman in need, contact Anat at ESRA  011 972 9 950 8371, for the application forms.

How to donate:

Online: http://www.esra.org.il/israel-breast-cancer-emergency-relief-fund-ibcerf

Tax Exempt Donations in Israel: Mail checks to ESRA, POB 3132, Herzliya 46104 or telephone the office and make your donation by credit card (09-950-8371).

Tax Exempt Donations from the U.S.A.: Donations can be made through the PEF Israel Endowment Fund, 317 Madison Ave., Room 607, New York, N.Y. 10017, Tel: (212) 599-1260. Checks should be made payable to “P.E.F. Israel Endowment Funds.” Designate check to IBCERF.

Tax Exempt donation from the United Kingdom: Donations can be made through the New Israel Fund, 26 Enford Str., London W1H 2DD, England, Tel: 44-20-7724-2266, Fax: 44-20-7724-2299. Checks should be made payable to “New Israel Fund.” Designate check to IBCERF.