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Cancer House of Hope in danger of shutting down

Date: 5/26/2010

May 26, 2010

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD - The Cancer House of Hope has issued an urgent call for help.

The non-profit, based in Springfield and Westfield, has provided free services for cancer patients, their families and friends for more than a decade but maybe not for much longer.

"We need your help right now," Robert Ziomek, president of the Board of Directors, Cancer House of Hope, said, adding that if corporate and private donations continue to decrease the board would have to consider closing one of the houses at the end of this fiscal year, on June 30.

Ziomek explained that the economic downturn has caused corporate and private donors to decrease or eliminate their contributions completely. He added that a $10,000 allocation from the state would also be omitted from the fiscal year 2011 (FY11) budget, effective July 1.

"We're a true non-profit. We struggle to break even every year," Ziomek said, adding that the House posted a substantial deficit in its operating budget last fiscal year.

"We can't continue to operate on deficits each year," he continued. "We had a very small reserve fund and we've already tapped into that."

The organization has been forced to operate on a smaller budget this fiscal year and was forced to cut certain programs, Cheryl Gorski, executive director for the Cancer House of Hope, explained.

When asked if she was worried about having to close one or both Houses, Gorski replied, "I think it's always in the back of your mind when your funding capacity has decreased. It's something we are concerned about. We're doing everything we can do make sure that doesn't happen."

She noted many of those working with the Cancer House of Hope are volunteers; however, approximately 80 percent of counselors and medical professionals facilitating programs and support groups are paid.

Ziomek said he and other board members are extremely reluctant to charge those in need of services in order to cover counselor fees.

The poor condition of the Westfield House on Court Street is also a growing concern, he noted, adding the location needs significant renovations and repairs.

Gorski said she hopes to raise at least $6,000 through this fundraising campaign; however, much more will be needed.

"To give to a small organization like us, [the money] goes a long way ... it's going to help your friends and neighbors. The money stays in the community and helps people that we all know," she added.

Ziomek said now is the time to ensure that "this House is secure for the future."

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Cancer House of Hope, mail a check payable to Cancer House of Hope, 86 Court St., Westfield, MA 01085 or the Springfield House, 946 Plumtree Rd., Springfield, MA 01119.

Additional information may be obtained by calling 562-0110 or 782-5500 or by visiting