Touched by Angels Among Us

Note: This guest post about Angels Among Us was written by Debbie Brock for the January 2022 issue of Circle Conversations, the newsletter of the Rita J. Bicknell Women’s Health Fund. Because of space constraints, we had to publish a shortened version of the post in Circle Conversations, but we’re publishing the full version here. Thank you, Debbie, for helping us all learn more about this wonderful organization!

What a pleasure! I was able to spend over an hour with Diana Polston sipping coffee and learning about Angels Among Us. I’ve been served by them at various community events, dropped coins in their donation jar at Mall Deli, and have even eaten their fried chicken at the county fair. But I didn’t know the extent of the love, compassion, energy, creativity and effectiveness of this organization. It is an organization that the Rita J. Bicknell Women’s Health Fund can be proud to support through its grants.

The basics of Angels Among Us

Angels consists of hundreds of volunteers who have put in thousands of hours fundraising and meeting the needs of cancer patients locally. It is definitely a grassroots effort. And 100% of its income goes directly to the patients in need. How many other nonprofits function in this way?!

It all began in the early ’90s when Diana’s father passed away from cancer. She was overwhelmed with the need to help others through the situation she had just experienced. So she went to the Yellow Pages to look up the American Cancer Society to see how she could be of help.

Her first involvement was in organizing the Relay For Life in Pittsburg. Do you remember the magnitude of that event? It was a 24-hour event at the stadium which honored and remembered cancer victims and survivors. It was a major event which raised substantial money.

But Diana, local physicians and volunteers began to search for a way for Crawford County to benefit fully from their fundraising. That thought launched Angels Among Us 22 years ago. Today approximately $50,000 is raised annually to help around 300 people each year.

How Angels raises funds

The funds are raised through simple hard work. A few weeks ago, Angels decorated and served Miller’s company Christmas party—no small task! Yet, a week later they were back at it again, catering a wedding with 500 guests.

A consistent annual fundraiser is the chicken dinner restaurant at the Crawford County Fair. As I recall, the Women’s Health Fund purchased tables and chairs so that this project could be effectively executed year after year.

Several years ago when Chris Ward was director of the Community Foundation she approached Diana with the idea of setting up an endowed agency fund for Angels. It was a forward-thinking idea on Chris’s part which resulted in a nice boost to the organization. People donate to this fund knowing for sure that cancer patients and their families will truly benefit. It is so well received that the staff at the local funeral homes gladly suggest it as a recipient for a family’s memorial contributions.

How Angels Among Us helps cancer patients

The fundraising of Angels is a business of its own (without overhead), but now let me tell you about the business of helping cancer patients. The physical toll on a person is great but so is the emotional and financial toll. Local health care workers, social workers and friends connect cancer patients with Angels. 

And Angels is quick to help in a variety of ways. The needs are varied and therefore so are the resources. Often people just need gas money or grocery money. Others need their propane tanks filled. Some are going through treatment in the heat of the summer and need a window air conditioner just for one room of their house.

One Christmas season there were five men in treatment that were hospitalized at Ascension Via Christi. They were all unable to afford Christmas gifts for their families. Angels gave each one $500 for gifts. Each man was very grateful and joyful to be able to give gifts to their families.

Also, many patients need wigs and cannot afford them. Again, Angels comes to the rescue and provides for many who would have gone without. No doubt the emotional boost from looking better and knowing that people care would really be uplifting during cancer treatment. Diana even told me about Rita donating her own wig after she completed her treatments and had her new hair. Rita was especially concerned that it would go to someone who truly needed it and that it would mean to them what it meant to her.

Closing thoughts

The spirit of Angels Among Us reminds me so much of Rita’s spirit. It is a generous, caring and comforting ministry straight from the hearts of all involved. I would guess that the contagious love and concern for others is a strong factor in the long-running success of this organization. I know many deep friendships have been formed between patients, caregivers and volunteers. And I know that from this new familiarity with Angels I want to become more involved, too!

Featured image: Angels Among Us volunteers at the 2021 CFSEK Grant Celebration.