The Emmanuel Cancer Foundation (ECF) provides the invaluable service of providing New Jersey families a place to turn when facing the crisis of a pediatric cancer diagnosis—all free of charge.
The Foundation serves families throughout the State of New Jersey. Their northeast office in Midland Park serves Bergen, Sussex, Essex, Hudson, and Passaic counties, offering counseling, material assistance, and emergency financial aid for families with children under 18 with a cancer diagnosis.
"We have connections with local hospitals, who refer us to affected families. Our caseworkers go out and do a full assessment," says Caitlin Yanowitz, LCSW Caseworker. "They can see the needs and begin counseling and offering various resources. For example, ECF provides monthly groceries, gift cards for food and clothing, and emergency assistance to help with bills.
Sometimes there is a direct request from a family in need. "We've gotten tires and refrigerators donated. We were even able to get one family a much-needed roof!"
"What sets us apart is our counseling piece," says Caitlin. "Each caseworker is assigned to a family. We work with them based on their schedule, even on evenings and weekends if necessary. We try to be very flexible to meet the family's needs."
Inessa Rome, Northern Regional Director, states, "We don't receive government funding. Instead, we do all this through events, community fundraising, and the generosity of private donors, so it's vital to spread the word of the ECF so that we can keep doing this." Over 82 cents per dollar raised goes directly to the families in need.
Various church groups and Girl Scout troops have joined the mission by organizing collections like food and toy
drives throughout the year. "We compile a wish list during the holidays," says Inessa, "and we make a point of addressing the family's needs as a whole. We make sure that siblings and parents are not overlooked." By sending a questionnaire to the family, ECF enlists the help of generous donors to ensure that the family receives what they want and need. "Each child receives 2-3 gifts—exactly what they want," says Inessa. "We have amazing support from our
Volunteer Linda Stone is beginning her second year working with ECF. "We all wear different hats," she says. "Handling the phones, planning events, and soliciting donors. It's exciting and very worthwhile."
Teams of volunteers put together customized bags of groceries for each family monthly, and volunteer drivers make the deliveries. "You have to care about the goal of the organization. As a parent, the thought of your child being ill is incomprehensible. I like the philosophy of working with the family as a whole. I feel that my time here has value," says Linda.
The organization relies on people like Linda to help with day-to-day tasks. During Covid, they had a strong turnout of college students who volunteered to help. Children with cancer tend to miss many landmark childhood experiences. The staff and volunteers at ECF feel privileged to have longstanding relationships with their clients and
cherish the opportunities to celebrate life's victories alongside them.
"We stay with these families a long time," says Caitlin. "I've attended many graduations and birthday parties. It's nice to see families be able to enjoy good times. We support them for as long as needed—throughout both relapses and remissions. You really can't let go of them."
One child named Camilla came from a single-parent family, living with her dad and two brothers. After successful treatment and remission, she was able to pursue her talent for art by having several pieces auctioned off at last year's ECF fundraiser. "In addition, says Inessa, "she was later commissioned to create artwork for the Montclair library. It was amazing to see her mature from a shy child to a strong, well-spoken young woman."
ECF always looks for volunteers and community support for their fundraisers and events. Consider picking up an extra bag of groceries, gas cards, grocery store cards, or gift cards to Target or Marshall's. They welcome "drop-offs" at their office; please call first.
The New Jersey Student Council grant recipients were touched by ECF's mission and developed a junior board for Emmanuel Cancer Foundation. In addition, they spearheaded the effort to do food drives, etc., in schools and colleges.