Working with cancer patients and participants daily, Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara is a community-based organization with a mission to ensure that all people impacted by cancer are empowered by knowledge, strengthened by action and supported by community.
“All our programs are provided at no charge, thanks to the generosity of corporations, foundations and individuals who believe in our mission,” emphasizes Monica Merryman, Executive Director of Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara—CSCVVSB.
Research has shown that the best cancer care includes social and emotional support.
“Our local affiliate, CSCVVSB began 30 years ago, founded by Marty Nason and Beth Kin when they realized the need for psychosocial support in our community,” Merryman states.
In their first two weeks of operation, they welcomed 95 cancer patients and their families from areas ranging from Reseda to Ojai. By the end of the first month, they saw more than 130 participants and provided more than 1,200 hours of direct service. To date, CSCVVSB has supported more than 30,000 participants.
June 17, 2021 will mark the organization’s 30th anniversary, and to celebrate this milestone, “we have a year full of virtual activities and events that will integrate the 30th anniversary theme, including a specially designed logo,” says Merryman, adding that a dedicated section of the organization’s website will be updated throughout the year.
“We have included a video that features photos from the past 30 years and will also feature testimonials from current and past participants, volunteers and donors to share with the community for the 30 days leading up to our anniversary celebration,” Merryman continues. “On our actual 30th anniversary date, June 17th, we will have a virtual cake cutting and toast to celebrate 30 years in the community. Also, for 2021, as a thank you to our donors, any gift of $100+ will receive a special 30th anniversary gift.”
During the past three decades, CSCVVSB has earned a reputation for its unique programs, including receiving patient referrals from American Cancer Society, Make-a-Wish, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Bumblebee Foundation, as well as local health care providers.
Additionally, “we are proud of the quality of our support, with licensed therapists facilitating all our support groups and individual counseling sessions for participants and their families,” Merryman says. “Nationally, Cancer Support Community is the largest professionally led nonprofit network of cancer support.”
Reflecting on the previous 30 years, “we have so much to be proud of,” Merryman says. “One of the highlights includes the number of participants we can provide emotional support to through their cancer journey and recovery.”
In 2020—perhaps one of the most challenging years in modern history—“we were able to quickly pivot and refocus all support groups into a virtual format and continue the support throughout the year,” Merryman notes. “We served over 1,200 people through 19 educational workshops, 670 support group sessions, 168 healthy lifestyle classes and 658 individual support sessions.”
CSCVVSB is also proud of some recent participant survey results.
“Due to the impact of COVID-19, our participants have additional stress and feelings of isolation,” Merryman explains. “Through the survey, the overwhelming majority of participants reported feeling more connected, experiencing better quality of life, feeling better able to cope with distress and they gained useful treatment information.”
Within a week of the stay-at-home order, all programming went to a virtual format and will continue as long as needed.
“All of our staff and facilitators have been working from home since last March,” Merryman says. “Even when we decide to reopen the office for support groups, educational workshops and healthy lifestyle classes, we will continue to offer some virtual options for the convenience of our participants that cannot travel to our office in Westlake Village.”
As far as the future is concerned, “we will continue to adjust our programs to meet the needs of the community,” says Merryman, adding that the organization is looking for some specific areas of growth, including diversity of participants, new participants, youth and family programs and increased programs for the underserved populations within their service area.
Meanwhile, collaboration with other cancer nonprofits will continue.
“We are all doing good work, and each have our specialties,” Merryman says. “Together, we can serve more patients and their families, which is the end goal.”
Above all, “we strive to increase our outreach and participant numbers, year after year,” Merryman emphasized. “The more patients and participants we can serve, the better their quality of life, and that makes a direct impact in our community.”
For more information about support groups, classes and events, visit CancerSupportVVSB.org or call 805.379.4777.