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Women reach out to cancer patients with helping hands

By Staff | Oct 26, 2018

Sue Sitter/PCT North Star Community Credit Union Branch Manager Barb Welk (left) and Assistant Branch Manager Tammy Olson pose with a bag they filled with items to make chemotherapy patients more comfortable.

When Tammy Olson and Barb Welk of North Star Community Credit Union in Rugby began putting hospital bags together for local chemotherapy patients earlier this month, comforting others held a special appeal.

Welk, who serves as the credit union’s branch manager said, “Tammy and I both have a passion for breast cancer awareness because we’re both survivors.”

Welk said Olson, who is the credit union’s assistant branch manager, was visiting North Star’s branch office in Bottineau, when she spotted a basket filled with blankets, socks, lotions, and inspirational reading material. Volunteers at the Bottineau branch distributed the bags to area cancer patients.

“There’s a gal up there, Becky Hinkle Hill, who has been doing this in Bottineau for a few years, and we’ve heard she’s given away about 60 of these bags already,” Welk noted.

“So, Tammy called me, and said, ‘Barb, we need to do this,'” Welk continued. “I said. ‘Okay!’ So, we talked to Becky a little bit. We still don’t have all our ducks quite in a row, but I know we’re off to a good start.”

With a slightly quavering voice, Olson recalled her own feelings when she heard her diagnosis.

“I just know that when you’re diagnosed, and you hear those words, you feel very alone, and isolated. I think just having this, when you’re going through (treatment), and you have a blanket, you feel like somebody cares, and you’re going to get through this,” Olson said.

Both Olson and Welk said the bags contain items to make the strain, and at times, the fear connected to chemotherapy a little easier.

Along with the blankets, fuzzy socks and reading material are small pillows, which Olson said relieve discomfort under the arm caused by ports delivering medications.

Olson noted, “The add-ins, like the Chap Sticks, and the lotions and the antibacterial items are all things that are recommended (by medical staff). They ‘re unscented. It’s made for people who are going through (chemotherapy). The candies and other items are all user-friendly. “

Olson explained why bright peppermint hard candies are in the bags: “They get that metallic taste out of your mouth caused by the chemo.”

Olson said she’s been busy soliciting donations from local businesses for the bags, and the idea has had a positive response so far.

“The bag itself (and the items in it) has a value of approximately $60,” Welk said. “My thought is, a $60 donation would buy a bag.”

“So, either people would donate $60, or if people want to put their own together, we can give them (an empty) bag, and request they return the (filled) bag here,” she continued.

Both Olson and Welk said they would accept donations of individual items for the bags. “They can drop off a blanket; they can drop off water bottles. All our water bottles so far were donated. Our marketing department was cleaning out their drawers, and they were all just samples,” she noted, pointed to clear plastic bottles in some of the bags’ pockets.

Welk said the cloth bags they currently use are sold as sewing bags at the Minot Hobby Lobby, where she purchased them. However, she and Olson are looking for roomy, pocketed bags in a variety of designs, such as camouflage to cheer up hunters who may be receiving treatments.

Olson and Welk compiled a list of items needed for bags: warm fuzzy socks; word game books; pens; journals; hand sanitizer; antibacterial hand wipes; peppermint candies; inspirational books; blankets; toothbrushes and toothpaste; Eucerin cream and Tylenol.

To help with donations, or to obtain a bag for a cancer patient in the Rugby area, contact Tammy Olson at 776-5869, Karen Drader in Cancer Care at Heart of America Medical Center at 776-5455, or The HAMC Pharmacy at 776-2531.

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