BethAnn McClure never realized how many lives are affected by breast cancer until she started working at Great Stuff two years ago and she admits the experience has been a humbling one.
“It actually has made me a better person,” says McClure, a critical care nurse. “I don’t sweat the small stuff knowing there are people out there with much bigger things they’re dealing with.”
Great Stuff was conceived as a fundraising venture for the DBCC when it opened its doors in the Talleyville Shopping Center in October 2010. Since then, it has earned more than $90,000 for the organization. But, as McClure and her fellow volunteers know, it has evolved into something far more meaningful.
“The shop is not just a resale shop, we are part of the community,” says manager Dale Maahs. “People will come in because maybe they’ve just been diagnosed or have a friend who’s just been diagnosed and they seek out a volunteer who will lend a very caring ear.”
Maahs says the volunteers range in age from 17 to 85. Many are breast cancer survivors or know someone who has been touched by it. But the one thing they have in common is compassion.
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“You can see the dedication and empathy the volunteers have to the cause and to each other,” she says.
That kind of support is invaluable to anyone fighting breast cancer. “When you have breast cancer, sometimes you feel like you’re damaged goods and that nobody wants you,” says survivor and volunteer Patti Nizinski. “That’s how I felt, so it’s nice to know that you do survive and you get through it.”
Liz Hall wanted to “give back” as well but didn’t want to work in a hospital. “I wanted to turn a negative experience into a positive,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons I volunteered. It’s a welcoming store. It just makes people feel good about themselves.”
Although she wasn’t a breast cancer survivor, Carole Shagrin did survive two bouts of gynecological cancer so she can certainly empathize. “It’s a life-changing situation,” she says. “I’m like every cancer survivor who just wants to help somebody down that path and make it easier for them.”
The benefits extend to the volunteers as well. “It’s kind of exciting when you have a 30-year survivor light up like a Christmas tree when she buys something,” says McClure. “It’s like the best job you’ve had in your life and you’re not even collecting a paycheck.”
For more about the Delaware Breast Cancer coalition, click here.