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Misty Maller: Stay at home mom – and angel

Hometown Hero 2011

When the chips are down, it doesn't occur to Misty Maller to feel sorry for herself. Instead, the 30-year-old Banks mother of three springs into action.

'My way of dealing with life is to do things for others … to make things happen,' says Misty, who started a nonprofit, Angels Making a Difference, after her mother, Cindy Linke of Banks, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2009.

Misty and her sister, Mandy Linke, manage the day-to-day operations of the organization, which raises funds for cancer patients and their families and connects them with resources they might not know about.

From information about specific cancers to hints about eating during treatment, the Angels team is there for families living with cancer.

'People often just don't know where to start,' said Misty, who's married to Don Maller, a Washington County sheriff's deputy. 'We help by giving them ideas about where to turn for what they need.'

When her mom was going through treatment - which included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation - Misty was by her side to give her encouragement. She also walked her father, Randall Linke, through those dark days.

'Mom had been in pain for two years, but she refused to go to the doctor because they had no insurance,' noted Misty, who said that's the case for many people she encounters through Angels.

Today, Linke is cancer-free, and her prognosis is good. That's all the thanks Misty needs.

'I really don't do for myself - I don't have a need to,' declared the petite blond, who oversees 25 Girl Scout troops between Vernonia and Banks and serves as a 'room mother' in her daughters' classrooms at Banks Elementary School.

She hasn't missed a Banks Rampage softball game since her eldest, 11-year-old Destiny, started with the team.

Sydney, 7, and Jordyn, 4, round out the Maller clan.

A former sales associate with Mary Kay cosmetics and loan officer at a bank, Maller settled into life as a stay-at-home mom after her girls came along. She spends about 40 hours a week managing all aspects of Angels, from visiting with families to planning fundraisers.

The first one she organized was a Valentine's Day spaghetti dinner in February 2010 at the Elks Lodge in Sherwood. The beneficiary was her mom.

'A band volunteered its time, and the Elks donated the use of their building,' she noted. That event spawned Angels a month later, not long before another family member, Don's mother, Deb, learned she had pancreatic cancer.

'Six months after my mom was diagnosed, my mother-in-law was diagnosed,' Misty recalled. This time, Angels was in place to buoy the extended family, a close-knit group that lives on 80 acres on Maller Road, just off Highway 26.

'I took her to all her radiation treatments, and we went over and had breakfast with her pretty much every morning,' said Misty, adding that Deb Maller passed away in February.

'It was devastating for all of us, especially my husband,' she noted. But soon, Misty did what she always does in the face of adversity: she put her energy to work for others.

Misty's group sold bracelets and put together a fundraising walk to help the family of Forest Grove nine-year-old Jaden Krieger, who had brain cancer.

Other local cancer patients aided by Angels have included Mike Logan, 25, of North Plains, and Terry Kiefer, a Banks Elementary PE teacher who died Aug. 18 of neuroendocrine cancer.

'We find out about people who might want our help though friends, or somebody who knows somebody,' said Misty, who receives literature - including cookbooks and other information - from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute to pass out to patients. 'Whoever it is, we go at their speed, trying to read what they need.'

Born in Newberg and reared in Vernonia, Misty came from a family that 'always did anything and everything we could' for friends and neighbors. She's happy to be passing along that gift to her own children.

'I'm very grateful that I can be home with them and that we can do these things together,' said Misty, who dreamed of 'doing something great' the year she turned 30.

'I thought it might be running a marathon or something off the wall like that,' she says now. Little did she know her 'something great' would spring from a life-threatening diagnosis involving her own mother.

Misty said she's 'humbled' that friend Heather Robinson, who nominated her as a Hometown Hero, and others, think she's worthy of the honor.

'I don't know. I just do what I do,' said Misty. 'The patient's focus should be their health. Hospitals don't hand people cancer awareness ribbons, and they don't help with fundraisers.

'If I can do that, I don't know why I wouldn't.'

- You can find out more about Misty Maller's nonprofit by visiting www.angelsmakingadifference.com.