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How Me Fine Has Grown

I first heard about the Me Fine Foundation back in mid-2011. I was serving on my then-employer’s internal foundation board, a pass-through fundraising group that supported various charities as requested by our colleagues. I’d reached out to a friend/fraternity brother, asking him to support a golf-a-thon that I was playing in to benefit a Florida foundation that provides financial support for families with children fighting brain cancer. Josh Swindell, a longtime Me Fine board member and then Board Chair, said to me “If you like that Foundation, I need to tell you about Me Fine.” By the end of lunch, I was signed up to join the Me Fine Board of Directors the following January.

There are many deserving organizations here in the Triangle, but few I’ve found whose mission and purpose is so clear. Children get sick through no fault of their own. Insurance helps cover the costs of treatment, and there are many foundations providing research grants towards finding better ways to diagnose, treat, and even cure some terrible diseases. But what about the cost of receiving care? Driving to and from the hospital; taking time off work to be with your child; eating meals out and staying at hotels just so you can keep family together. Or the emotional toll a serious illness can take on the child, their siblings, parents, and extended families: Who helps with that?

Me Fine does.

I’m blessed to have two beautiful, healthy children. We’ve never spent a night in the hospital, and I hope we never have to. The truth is: I have a hard time even conceiving what it would be like if one of them received a serious diagnosis – the anxiety and fear and desperation. Add to that financial stress, and it’s truly unimaginable.

Unfortunately, families face that every day at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. One of those was the Lee family. You may be familiar with Folden’s story, and that of his amazing mother, Lori Lee. Me Fine’s name recalls young Folden’s answer when asked how he was doing today, before he ultimately lost his battle with leukemia. Our mission represents Lori’s selfless vision – solving problems faced by the families she met during Folden’s treatment.

Lori is the most altruistic, inspiring person I’ve ever known. She’s lost a son to leukemia. She’s fought and beaten cancer multiple times herself. She’s been a patient advocate, a grief counselor, a fundraiser, and public speaker. All of this in hopes of making life a little easier for families she may never meet. During my six years serving on our board, my primary purpose has been to ensure that Lori’s hard work and determination to help these families can continue long after her and my time on the board has passed.

To that end, I’m quite proud of what’s been accomplished during my tenure. Our staff has expanded and is well-equipped to meet Me Fine’s evolving needs. Our board is stronger, and we’ve created more opportunities to leverage non-board member contributions through our committee structure. Our resources have grown; our annual budget today is more than double what it was in 2012 (thanks to generous supporters like those reading this letter). And as a Foundation, we’ve matured – what once was a hands in the dirt, “little engine that could,” has evolved into a highly-regarded, well known nonprofit here in our community.

At the same time, the need for what we do has also grown. We served more families in 2017 than any year before, and are on track to serve many more in 2018. We expanded into WakeMed Children’s Hospital,and are supporting more emotional support programs than at any time in our history.


Jake and Murray
Jake and Murray enjoying the evening at Music For Me Fine 2018

I hope there will come a day when Me Fine is no longer needed, when childhood disease is a thing of the past, and families never face the same tragedy that Lori and her family did with Folden. But, that day is not today and is unlikely to be tomorrow. Until then, I’ll continue to strongly support Me Fine with my time, energy, and financial contributions. My time on the board may be coming to an end, but my passion for Me Fine has never been stronger.

Thank you to Me Fine – our board members, our staff, and our supporters – for the opportunity to help shape and grow such an amazing cause. It has truly been among the most rewarding experiences of my life. And thank you in advance on behalf of all the families who we will serve in the months and years ahead through your continued hard work and dedication. The best is yet to come.

Jake Connors has served six years on the Me Fine Foundation Board of Directors, including Board Chair in 2016. Currently, he chairs the Development Committee. Outside of Me Fine, Jake is a Senior Director with Compass Financial Partners.

In Their Words: Brandon’s Story

The ability to share our stories allows us to connect with each other and discover that we often have more in common than we might think. We at Me Fine have begun to ask families if they would be willing to allow us a glimpse into their current lives as their child undergoes treatment for a critical medical condition. It is our honor and privilege to provide such a platform for these families, and we’re grateful for their courage in putting pen to paper and inviting us all in to their world during such a difficult time. 

In Their Words: Brandon’s Story

Our life was like any other. Normal, hectic, and fun.

However, in the midst of our lives, our oldest daughter started doing things that weren’t like her: getting tired, not wanting to run with friends. Once we got the official diagnosis (B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia), it was punch in the gut.

Image of stethoscope on gray table

The pause button, in a lot of ways, has been hit in our lives. We make the majority of our decisions now based on what’s best in terms of her treatment, her exposure to anyone else (to keep her from being sick), and what resources we have to cover what we need.

There are so many things that I could say but getting financial support and encouragement is a big one because there are a lot of incidentals and needs that come up that many have helped us with. Gas to and from; items at the store; food: all are significant when shuffling back and forth to the hospital.

Taking care of vehicles, having someone to help with the small things so we can focus on the big things, which is our daughter and beating Leukemia. Those who have helped us say it’s a really small thing, but no. It’s a very big deal to us! We are so blessed and thankful to God for those who help us in any way.

Story authored by Brandon, whose daughter is currently receiving treatment for B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia at UNC Children’s Hospital. Their family lives in Raleigh. To make a donation to ensure families like Brandon’s receive the financial assistance and emotional supports they need throughout their journey, click here.

 

What is #MeFineCares?

On May 13th, the Me Fine Foundation launched a special campaign that we called #MeFineCares. It was no coincidence that the campaign’s start date coincided with Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a time when many of us express gratitude for the mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, spouses, and other caregivers who have shaped our lives for the better.

Caregivers. We hear that word in our vernacular, but how often do we take stock of what the word truly means? It is a role that literally means to “give care.” We may describe a person as “caring” to reflect their generous spirit. But, caring is more than an adjective. To care is to take action; it encapsulates the effort of doing something.

When your child receives a diagnosis of a serious medical condition, your role as a caregiver takes on a whole new meaning. Additional stressors and anxieties often build. This can put parents, who are already doing whatever they can to raise their child to be a good person, in a perpetual state of fear. Some parents may experience guilt. We’re conditioned to believe that it is our job to protect our child. How could this happen? What did we do wrong?

The answer is nothing. Life-threatening medical conditions often come with no warning. Without knowing what’s next, parents forge ahead for their child and the rest of the family. This can come at the peril of their own mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. This can also take a toll on the household’s financial health.

Based on the personal experiences of our founder – Lori – and the founder of Striving For More – Diane – which Me Fine acquired in 2013, it became crystal clear that caregivers needed more support than they were currently receiving in the healthcare setting. Assistance can come as payments for vehicle repairs so families have reliable transportation to get to and from the hospital. Help can be in the form of a dedicated support group for parents whose infants are receiving treatment in the Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs). Caring looks like providing families with the means so they can stay closer to the hospital, whether in a Ronald McDonald House or a long-term stay hotel. Closer shelter to the hospital allows families to be present with their child longer and more frequently.

This is the crux of the #MeFineCares campaign. Each dollar raised through June 30th will be put towards providing care for the resilient caregivers in the families we serve. Me Fine remains committed to providing each family with the assistance they have identified. We work together with hospital social workers on each referral and fulfill the request directly to the third party. Our goal is to avoid adding any additional burdens or red tape for families, so they can focus their attention on what really matters.

We set an ambitious goal to raise an additional $25,000 for assistance during our #MeFineCares campaign. With fewer than 24 hours left, we’re still short of that goal. But, with your willingness to show care, we can not only meet it but exceed it. That’s not a win for Me Fine: That’s a win for critically ill children, their caregivers, and our broader communities. Make your impact today: http://bit.ly/MeFineCares2018

Supporter Spotlight: Bomani Jones

“When you have more than you need, you have a duty to do what you can for both the people you know and for strangers.”

This is one of the underlying principles that guides Bomani (Bo) Jones in his approach to philanthropy.

You may have heard of Bo – or at least heard his voice – from his career on the radio and now in the podcast world. His educational pursuits first brought him to the Triangle; his initial career kept him here. He first met Joey Powell, Me Fine’s current Executive Director, at their first “office” jobs at ESPN.

Bomani Jones

Photo by Rodrigo Varela / ESPN Images

Since his initial days hosting The Three Hour Lunch Break and Sports Saturday with Bomani Jones in Raleigh and then launching his own show from Durham (The Morning Jones), Bo’s broadcasting career took him south of the Tar Heel state to Florida and most recently transplanted him in the Northeast. Still, Bo’s heart remains tied to the Triangle region.

“The Triangle was the only place I chose to live,” Bo noted. “Even after I’ve been gone for years, I still maintain a strong personal connection to the community.”

One way that Bo has maintained that relationship is by supporting the mission of the Me Fine Foundation. While his first introduction to the organization came about because of working with Joey, Bo felt like his contributions were having a clear impact on people’s lives.

“I know that Me Fine is paying someone’s light bill or providing a hotel room so a family can stay close to the hospital. That individual support gives a family in crisis immediate assistance, which is important to me. Sometimes, causes are so big and complex that it doesn’t feel like you as a donor can make a difference. Me Fine shows me how my gift translates into something tangible and real for families dealing with such unimaginable situations.”

With a background and multiple degrees in Economics, Bo’s career has taken him down a slightly different path now as the host of his latest show High Noon (on ESPN Radio with co-host Pablo Torre) as well as the The Right Time podcast. Yet, Bo’s wish to participate in the public commentary space has come to fruition. Asked what the biggest conception people hold about working on a radio show, Bo offered that working as a radio broadcaster is a lot of work.

“We don’t just show up and start talking each day. You have to put in a lot of hours to prepare for a three hour program. And, you always have to be up. There isn’t much wiggle room for an off or bad day. But, that helps me to stay focused on doing the best I can every day.”

It is clear to use that Bo’s mindset of doing all he can to be there for his community transcends his show and spills over into his role as a Me Fine supporter.

Are you interested in being profiled for a Supporter Spotlight segment? Please contact Katie Todd at katie.todd@mefinefoundation.org. A big thank you to Bomani Jones for not only his financial support but his willingness to share his story! If you would like to become a Me Fine supporter, you can make a one-time gift or join as a monthly sustainer here.

For immediate release: Thompson GMC-Buick Providing Hope for Critically Ill Children, Families with Me Fine Foundation

Thompson Automotive Group logo

Me Fine Foundation logo

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 18, 2018
Contact: Katie Todd; 919-244-5868; katie.todd@mefinefoundation.org

THOMPSON GMC-BUICK PROVIDING HOPE FOR CRITICALLY ILL CHILDREN, FAMILIES
Dealership announces sponsorship of Me Fine Foundation’s vehicle repair program

RALEIGH: Today, the Me Fine Foundation is pleased to announce that Thompson GMC-Buick will be providing $10,000 in support as the main sponsor of the nonprofit’s vehicle assistance program.

Me Fine provides financial assistance and emotional support programs to families whose child has been diagnosed with a critical or life-threatening medical condition and is receiving treatment at Duke, UNC, or WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Nearly 20 percent of the organization’s Family Assistance funding goes to helping families pay for vehicle expenses each year.

“Parents and caregivers must have safe, dependable transportation throughout their child’s treatment,”  said Joey Powell, executive director of Me Fine. “In fact, one of the biggest inhibitors to pediatric follow-up care is a lack of reliable transportation. Thompson Buick-GMC’s support gives us the resources to help even more families combat this additional out-of-pocket cost.”

“Thompson GMC-Buick wants people in our community to have what they need to thrive, whether that looks like a new car or financial assistance for fixing a vehicle vital to their child’s medical treatment. We are proud to establish this commitment with Me Fine and the families navigating these unimaginable circumstances,” said Lee Maynor, general service manager of Thompson Automotive Group.

Caring for a sick child comes with numerous costs that are not covered by any insurance program. Parents may be forced to quit jobs in order to provide care for their child. Unfortunately, bills continue to pile up. When a car breaks down during this time, families may not have access to the same financial resources to make necessary repairs. This is where a nonprofit like Me Fine can assist.

In 2017, Me Fine provided nearly $100,000 in financial assistance to 211 families. More than $17,000 of that went towards vehicle repairs and other related car costs.

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Me Fine Foundation is a nonprofit organization committed to ensuring families whose children face a devastating medical crisis are able to receive financial assistance, emotional support and other necessary resources to sustain the loss of income due to the dramatic change in lifestyle while undergoing treatment at Duke, UNC, or WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. For more information, visit mefinefoundation.org.

Faces of Me Fine: Miss Barbara

In our series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Meet Miss Barbara, a former science teacher who has brought her passion and ingenuity to supporting Second Hope Shop and the impact this community-based thrift store has on children and families throughout North Carolina.

Miss Barbara may claim to be retired, but her time at the Second Hope Shop says otherwise. She officially joined the store’s team in August 2014 after seeing an advertisement for a part-time position. While she doesn’t have a official title, Mary Angel and the rest of the staff have dubbed her the Chief Pricer.

Miss Barbara retired from teaching high school science in Wayne County. Throughout her career, she taught all of the science classes offered, including Biology, Physical Sciences, and Chemistry. What was her favorite?

“Chemistry,” she responded. “There’s an answer there. You just have to know how to get to it.”

Miss Barbara wearing a pink shirt and blue jeans standing next to a dresser

She’s applied this same methodology to her role as Chief Pricer of Second Hope Shop. She researches current prices based on the condition and age of donated items in order to generate the appropriate price per the store’s guidelines. Maryssa (profiled here) helps her price newer items.

“I want the prices to be both competitive and to help raise money for the families that the Me Fine Foundation supports.”

Why did Miss Barbara become a teacher? She started at East Carolina University studying medical technology. Ironically, she detested chemistry in high school. But, she found science fascinating and wanted to stoke that curiosity for the next generation.

“Science is constantly changing,” she shared. “It’s important to give students real world examples.”

Miss Barbara and the Second Hope Shop do this same thing with customers at the thrift store: how their purchases go towards supporting families with critically ill children at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals.

The Princeton team looks to Miss Barbara for guidance, leadership, and laughter. It’s clear that this former teacher remains committed to caring for children and families. While it may not be teaching the scientific method or reviewing the periodic table of elements, Miss Barbara’s passion of helping others to see possibilities is clear here at the Second Hope Shop and throughout the community.

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

Mission, Vision of Striving For More Remains Strong in Me Fine’s Hands Five Years Later

This month marks the 5-year anniversary of the merger between Striving for More and Me Fine Foundation. Next month will be 10 years since our 9-year-old daughter, Colleen died from cancer, and the experience that led to my purpose. Although it has been proven that psychosocial care improves outcomes and quality of life, many hospitals were struggling to provide this care. Insurance companies were not reimbursing hospitals to provide things like sibling support, opportunities for social interaction, and medical procedure preparation. I began my mission to address the gaps.

Today, even though these services and others are cited as standards of care in the pediatric population, many centers continue to struggle to fund them. They depend on the support of organizations like Me Fine to develop and fund programs that can be used as important resources for their youngest patients and their families. Members of the psychosocial care teams work directly with Me Fine to support financial and emotional needs of their patients. I am incredibly proud that Colleen’s legacy lives on and continues to grow through the continual support of Me Fine supporters, board members, staff, and volunteers.

The mission of Me Fine continues to remain close to my heart. Our dedication to their purpose drives us to continue to donate year after year in honor of Colleen and the other children who experience critical illness.

Perhaps there is a child you know who has benefited from their programs, perhaps your family is looking for ways to celebrate the health and well-being of your own children, perhaps you see the need as strongly as I do. Whatever your reason for donating, you can rest assured that critically ill children located where you live, work and play will benefit from your family’s generosity and my family would be incredibly grateful.

With hope,
Diane Moore

New partnership offers more hope for critically ill children, families in Triangle

 

 

 

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 30, 2018
Contact: Katie Todd; katie.todd@mefinefoundation.org; (919) 244-5868

New partnership offers more hope for critically ill children, families in Triangle
California Closets Raleigh selects Me Fine Foundation as new charity partner

RALEIGH: Today, the California Closets Raleigh team and the Me Fine Foundation are proud to announce a new partnership that will benefit families whose children are receiving treatments for life-threatening medical conditions at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals.

Owners Graziella and Joe Marengi promote California Closets Raleigh as a “family-run and family-oriented” business. After learning about Me Fine through their neighbors, BJ and Caroline Fungaroli with Environmental Holdings Group, and attending the nonprofit’s annual gala, the two saw an opportunity to make an even greater impact on families in financial crisis due to exorbitant costs related to their child’s treatment.

The California Closets team will provide the chance for their customers to donate gently-used clothing and other household items to Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop. Located in Princeton, North Carolina, the Second Hope Shop is a way for community members to support the organization’s mission of providing financial assistance and emotional support to critically ill children and their families. Each donation and sale connected to the thrift store makes a difference, as the store provides 20% of the organization’s overall revenues.

“Our team is passionate about supporting the surrounding community, especially in ways that tap into the talents and expertise we have on staff,” said Graziella. “By partnering with Me Fine, we are able to show our clients that we are committed to a mission that has a real, direct impact on people in our neighborhoods, schools, churches, and more. We may never personally experience what it is like to navigate such a perilous medical journey with our child. Still, we can let families in such circumstances know that they are not alone.”

In addition to helping connect customers to Me Fine’s mission through the donation of gently-used clothing and other household items, California Closets Raleigh will lend their expertise and skills for enhancing the Second Hope Shop in the near future.

“The partnership between Me Fine and California Closets Raleigh is a great example of what it looks like when community members step up to take care of each other,” shared Joey Powell, executive director of Me Fine Foundation. “Graziella, Joe, and the entire Raleigh team will help us grow the thrift store’s financial footprint, which allows us to provide more financial assistance to more families in the years to come.”

In 2017, Me Fine allocated nearly $100,000 in financial assistance to 211 families, nearly one quarter of whom reside in the Triangle-area. The assistance covered everything from rent and mortgage expenses; utility bills; transportation expenses, including gas and vehicle repair; and much more. Additionally, Me Fine funds multiple emotional and social support programs for pediatric patients, siblings, and caregivers at each of its three partner hospitals.

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Faces of Me Fine: Mary Angel Bastin

In our series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Meet Mary Angel, our Second Hope Shop manager, which is a position that her mother held before she took the helm in 2012.

January 7, 2012. Not everyone can remember their exact first day of work, but that date rolls off Mary Angel’s tongue without hesitation. That is the day she officially became manager of the Me Fine Foundation’s Second Hope Shop.

But, it certainly wasn’t her first day with Me Fine. Like her sister Caty, Mary Angel grew up supporting the organization’s mission because of her family’s closeness with Lori and Folden.

Mary Angel Bastin standing behind the Second Hope Shop counter with Me Fine Foundation's logo

Mary Angel Bastin, manger of Second Hope Shop

When asked what has surprised her the most since becoming store manager, she replied “people’s willingness to give and what they are willing to give away.” One of the clearest examples of the community’s generosity comes annually with the Angel Tree program. Me Fine has Mary Angel to thank for starting this effort back in 2008!

The Angel Tree program allows individuals, companies, schools, churches, and any interested group to put up a tree with tags identifying requested items for families hospitalized at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. After all gifts are collected, Me Fine hosts its annual “Hope for the Holidays” days so families can pick up their gifts, wrapping paper, tape, and stocking stuffers.

“Everyone can do one thing,” Mary Angel shared. “Angel trees give people that chance.”

Growing up in a family of eight (seven girls and one boy), Mary Angel saw her mother do exactly that: everything she could to provide for her children. She carries the same conviction with her into her role with Me Fine.

Ironically, Mary Angel had never set foot inside of a thrift store before the Second Hope Shop opened. Under her direction, the store has blossomed: increased revenues, higher quality items, and dedicated customers.

“People lined up on the sidewalk this past Black Friday. In fact, the line stretched down Highway 70. In nine hours, we were able to make nearly $700 on $2.19 shirts. That’s incredible.”

For Mary Angel and her staff, what makes the work even more meaningful is the knowledge that all sales help support families with critically ill children. She estimates that she tells the Me Fine story about 20 to 30 times each day.

Mary Angel with her mother, seven sisters, and brother

Mary Angel has been married to her high school sweetheart for 12 years. Family is a fixture for Mary Angel. In fact, she claims to spend every waking moment with her family. She is “Mimi” to her niece , a name she bears proudly.

When it comes to the Second Hope Shop, Mary Angel gives all the credit to her staff and to members of the community who support Me Fine’s mission either by donating to and/or shopping at the store.

“Everything has its purpose,” she reflected. It’s clear that, for right now, Mary Angel has found hers.

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

Faces of Me Fine: Meet Caty Diaz

In our series, “Faces of Me Fine,” we highlight the dedicated people who make sure the organization achieves its mission to support critically ill children and their families at Duke, UNC, and WakeMed Children’s Hospitals. Meet Caty, a long-time member of the Me Fine family who thrives of sharing with Second Hope Shop customers how their support is making a difference in more ways than they know.

Despite the note on her resume that Caty started working at Second Hope Shop in November 2017, she has been involved with the store for years. Sister to Mary Angel Bastin, Second Hope Shop’s manager, Caty grew up knowing the mission of Me Fine and how important the thrift store was in providing the nonprofit with the financial resources to help critically ill children and their families.

Caty, Cassie, and Mary at Second Hope Store

Caty (seated on far left) with fellow Second Hope Store team members Cassie and Mary

“I’ve helped in all sorts of ways, shapes, and forms,” Caty reflected. Currently, Caty serves as the donations supervisor, sorting through the countless bags and boxes brought in by members of the community. She separates out items that cannot be sold within the store due to stains, rips, or tears. Then, she brings the items to Ms. Barbara to be priced and put on the shelves for purchase.

What’s the best part of working at the store for Caty? “Anytime I have a chance to explain why this store exists and what the Me Fine Foundation does,” she said.

Spending time with family at the shop doesn’t stop Caty from spending even more time with her siblings and their children outside of the shop.

Me Fine’s Second Hope Shop is located at 5100 US Hwy 70 East in Princeton, North Carolina. You can find updates on sales and specials on the store’s Facebook page or give them a call at 919-202-0445.

 

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