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Cancer association trying to grow within caring community

Donna Harrell, left, of the Cancer Association of Shelby County accepts a fundraising donation Tuesday of $1,005 from Nancy and Doug Seeman of Sanders Jewelry. The downtown jewelry store offered two pairs of shell pearl earrings for $10 during the holiday shopping season with the purchase price going directly to the local cancer association.

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

Tucked into the southwest corner of the downtown Public Square is a small thrift shop that serves as the doorway into the Cancer Association of Shelby County.

Through the glass doors, the store wraps around a main wall to reveal so much more – just like the Cancer Association itself.

Incorporated in December of 1959, the Cancer Association of Shelby County is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019. And Donna Harrell wants this year to be a year of growth for what she believes is an untapped resource for those dealing with cancer in Shelby County.

“I’m upping our goals this year,” said Harrell on Tuesday from deep in the recesses of the cancer association’s store and office at 31 Public Square. “I want to do some major marketing to get more people on board and help us. Our name is finally getting out there ... but with our store, we do more than just help cancer patients.”

Harrell is involved with other service organizations and helps people readjusting to life outside prison or something as simple as providing clothes for those that are homeless. And the store provides options for seniors in need of health care equipment.

“We have equipment here like wheelchairs and walkers,” she said. “We have about everything (seniors) need but hospital beds because we don’t have anywhere to put them.”

A more visible storefront sits empty next door where the Bureau of Motor Vehicles used to reside. Harrell has inquired about adding that space to the cancer association, which would help expand its storefront and allow for larger furniture donations but no deal has been struck.

The cancer association maintains five full-time employees, according to Harrell, and more than a dozen volunteers – a number she would like to expand on to help sort donations and prepare them for display in the store.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact Harrell at 317-398-0100 or via email at donna.shelbycancer@live.com. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.

Organized in the late 1950s, services were limited in its infancy. It was not until Harrell arrived three decades later that the Cancer Association of Shelby County started receiving substantial funds from Shelby County United Fund For You (SCUFFY).

“When I took over, I told them we needed to start doing things differently. I went to SCUFFY and we started getting funds. Now, SCUFFY provides one fourth of our budget,” said Harrell.

The store provides another one fourth of the operating budget with the remaining half filled by donations and fundraisers.

Sanders Jewelry, located at 16 S. Harrison St. in downtown Shelbyville, was the latest business to provide assistance to the cancer association. Beginning in early December, Sanders Jewelry offered a pair of shell pearl earrings for $10 with the entire purchase price going to the cancer association. The fundraiser recently ended and Nancy and Doug Seeman were able to deliver $1,005 on Tuesday to Harrell, who was sporting her own pair of the pearl earrings.

“The ones that really help us are people like Nancy,” said Harrell. “We have a lot of individuals that do smaller fundraisers for us, and when you add them all up, it gets pretty big.”

The cancer association’s main functions include transportation, supplies and equipment, medication, dental assistance, in home assistance, insurance and patient’s human service program.

“We do as much as we can do,” said Harrell.