Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center was founded to honor the last wish of 26-year-old breast cancer victim Michelle Watson. Watson envisioned a place where she could receive peer support and where she could receive the latest information, coping strategies and research. While such a place was not available to Watson, his family, friends and the community created a center in his honor, which reflected his vision.
Two decades later, Michele’s Place has continued to grow, evolve and serve the community. In November, the organization hosted a gala to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The event took place in the parking lot of its newly expanded facility. The successes of the organization were celebrated and those in attendance toured the 10,000 square foot expansion.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has shifted to offering virtual programming and has remained dedicated to connecting with customers. The organization’s five patient navigators have called each client to assure them that the organization is always available to help them and to verify their needs.
Michelle’s Place staff also delivered groceries to customers in need once a week at the start of the shutdown.
“All of the patients in treatment were suddenly quarantined and they were terrified,” said Kim Gerrish, executive director of the organization. “The simple effort of making that call was huge because at the end of the day, they just want to know they’re not alone, and for us, that’s it.”
The organization was also able to move forward with building its expansion without disrupting programming. The additional space now includes a dressing room, art room and support group room. A third phase of construction will include the addition of a laundry room, the repair of a bathroom and the finishing of the bathroom.
Michelle’s Place has up to 23 classes and support groups that take place 28 times per month and is now able to make full use of her space. While all support groups and some programs will continue to be offered virtually, the center is open to those who wish to attend in person. The expansion also allowed the organization to try new programming. The monthly craft class was particularly well received. In the most recent craft class, the group made Christmas cards.
Recently, Michelle’s Place received a grant from the Seraphim Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation. The grant supported the organization’s Purple Ribbon Assistance Program, which provides support and resources to women undergoing cancer treatment. Program clients receive grocery gift cards, backpacks with school supplies and Christmas gifts for their children, and a Thanksgiving meal for the family.
“We are here and here for all cancers,” Gerrish said. “We always need funds to continue what we are doing. “
In January, Michelle’s Place will host a wellness launch event.
Wellness and nutrition resources are important to customers, Gerrish said. The event will feature sound baths, reiki, yoga and tai chi, all taught by volunteers. By using the expanded space, the organization will be able to offer several courses at the same time.
Michelle’s Place continues to be busy. The organization depends on volunteers and donations to provide its free services. Tangible items and grocery gift cards are also ways the community can support the organization. Those interested in making a donation can find information on the organization’s website.
“Our resources are free… and we are not defined by geography,” Gerrish said. “Anyone can call us if they need to talk and need help. We are really trying to live our vision that no one should face cancer alone. “
Information: https://michellesplace.org/ or 951-699-5455
Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen the interior of Southern California through philanthropy.