Part of a new series about the charitable reuse centres operating in Halton Region.
Reuse centres provide many positive benefits to our community: they create jobs, provide affordable shopping, and divert waste from out landfill. Many reuse centres are registered charities, and support many great initiatives to assist with community development.
In 2012, over 3,300 tonnes of material was donated by the residents of Halton Region to local reuse centres. This equates to over 7.2 million pounds of donated material! While a lot of us donate materials to these reuse centres, approximately 7% of the material found in the garbage in Halton is textiles (clothing, bedding, etc). So there’s potential to reuse even more!
In this post, we visit Breast Cancer Support Services (BCSS), which is supported by a reuse organization.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Blair Lancaster, who serves not only as a Regional Councillor, but is also the Executive Director of BCSS and has been involved with the organization for 20 years. When I visited the centre at 695 Brant Street in Burlington, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found: the inside of the building resembles a comfortable family home. When Blair greeted me at the entrance, she brought me on a tour of the lovely facility and informed me of the history of the organization and the amazing services that are offered for women fighting cancer in our community. After the tour, we sat down at a large, comfortable kitchen table and began discussing the organization and its commitment to helping others.
LP: Tell me a bit about Breast Cancer Support Services
BL: Breast Cancer Support Services (BCSS) began 25 years ago with two women who met in a breast cancer screening clinic many years ago and felt lost, confused, scared, and without answers. They began to meet regularly at each other’s homes, where they sat at the kitchen table sipping tea and discussing their newly diagnosed conditions and offered support to one another. Eventually, their meetings grew and welcomed more women, creating one of the first support groups for women fighting breast cancer.
In 2002, the current centre was established and today women can drop into the centre to speak with volunteers about their diagnosis, whether it is to get more information or find an understanding shoulder to cry on. Some women see our centre as a safe haven where they can spend time alone to reflect. We offer our comforting serenity garden to all of our visitors to sit in on their own, or meet with others.
Aside from getting information about breast cancer (and more recently, gynecological cancers), BCSS offers a number of services to women living with cancer, free of charge. Women can come and attend free yoga classes, receive acupuncture, reflexology, or reiki treatment.
We also offer a number of support groups for women going through breast cancer treatment, as well as for their families and friends. We feel it is so important to provide a non-threatening, comfortable environment for women to learn more about their diagnosis, connect with other women who are fighting or have survived, and find a positive outlet for channeling energy.
LP: How many people utilize BCSS annually?
BL: In 2012, 250 support groups were held for breast cancer patients and their families; 800 support calls were received; 680 Holistic Therapy sessions were held; 290 prosthetics and 350 bras, bathing suits, etc were given to survivors, and over 800 participants attended our Breast Health Workshops.
Each year, hundreds of comfort kits are prepared and distributed for mastectomy and chemotherapy patients, which provide information and special products to make the side effects of treatment easier to deal with. Scarves were donated and chemo caps were knit by volunteers for women to pick up to keep their heads covered and warm. These services could not be provided without the 2200 hours dedicated from our program volunteers and the donations received from our numerous supporters.
LP: When did the reuse program start?
BL: In 2001, after struggling to find financial resources to maintain and enhance our current programs, we met “our Angel,” Paul DeKort, who is the CEO of Clothing for Charity Ltd. After meeting with him and educating him on the initiatives and goals of BCSS, Paul offered to make BCSS a partner, and made a generous donation of a new centre to house BCSS’ operations on Brant Street! Our “green donation bins” can be found throughout Halton Region where residents can donate gently used clothing. While we do have several supporters, the assistance provided by Clothing for Charity has enabled us to expand our program and strengthen our resources to assist women fighting breast cancer, as well as their families and friends.
LP: What kind of materials do you accept?
BL: Clothing, paired shoes, towels, sheets, and blankets can be donated.
LP: How are the materials processed?
BL: There’s a great video to show you how Clothing for Charity receives and processes donations!
LP: How does the clothing reuse program benefit BCSS?
The reuse program benefits BCSS in countless ways. As I mentioned, our partnership with Clothing for Charity is the reason we have this comfortable home to use as the headquarters for our support centre. It also helped significantly increase our budget to keep our services running. As previously mentioned, we now provide resources for women with gynecological cancers, and we’re hoping in the future to expand our services to include resources for Halton residents fighting prostate cancer as well (an important initiative for BCSS as all three of those cancers can derive from the same gene.
The program also allows us to raise awareness in the community about the importance of breast health and regular screening. In partnership with Clothing for Charity, we donated $100,000 to have a new mammography suite installed at Joseph Brant Hospital.
The financial assistance that we receive from all of our donors, including Clothing for Charity, allows us to continue to expand our programs and resources for cancer patients and keep them free of charge.
LP: In what way can residents get involved with BCSS or help out?
BL: Residents can continue to donate — both clothes through our partnership with Clothing for Charity, or financial donations to BCSS directly. We are always looking for volunteers to help cover all of the shifts to service our visitors. Lastly, those passionate about contributing to BCSS can hold an event to raise awareness and funds for our organization.
Breast Cancer Support Services is just one example of how the efforts of Halton residents are benefitting the community while diverting reusable materials from the landfill.
Stay tuned throughout the year to learn more about the other charitable reuse centres and the ways your contributions can make a difference.