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Helping new friends in need

Volunteer group completes housework, yard work and more for single mother undergoing cancer treatments

Photo Credit: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Helping hand -- Michelle's Love volunteer Kara Ranger (left) and founder Andy McCandless (right) came with a group to assist Newberg resident Kelly Slepicka (center) as she undergoes treatment for cancer. A Newberg mother is receiving help from a Portland-area volunteer organization as she undergoes treatment for cancer.

On Jan. 10, a group of 17 people working with a nonprofit group called Michelle’s Love made the trek to Newberg to provide assistance to resident Kelly Slepicka, a 38-year-old mother of three.

“They grabbed a huge group of volunteers and sent my family on our way while they worked,” she said. “It’s pretty awesome.”

The volunteers did yard work and household tasks to help Slepicka as she prepared to go into surgery for breast cancer.

Andy McCandless, founder of Michelle’s Love, first had the idea for this sort of organization after her best friend Michelle died of cancer in 2003.

“She was 32 and had four kids and was a single mom,” McCandless said.

Through watching her friend’s battle with cancer she realized there are a lot of organizations working to find a cure, but in the meantime patients still struggle to keep up with the daily work that needs to be done even as treatment goes on.

In her friend’s position as a single mother, McCandless also saw the difficulty cancer and the treatment process can cause for single parents with increased responsibilities.

“When they’re single and they don’t have a spouse in the home, I don’t think people think about that,” she said.

McCandless founded and ran a similar organization in Arizona, before moving to Portland and founding Michelle’s Love in 2012. Since then the organization has helped more than 20 single mothers in the Portland region.

The recipients have been mostly located in the tri-county area, although the group’s assistance has reached out to Columbia County. McCandless herself lives in Scappoose and when someone had reached out for help in the area she said the group would help.

Assisting Slepicka is the first time Michelle’s Love has offered its services in Newberg.

The actual assistance Michelle’s Love provides varies widely depending on the recipient’s needs. McCandless said they have provided meals, completed household cleaning projects and even arranged living will preparations. They also provide financial assistance, often in the form of paying a person’s monthly expenses. Slepicka said the group had paid a portion of her bills.

“Last year we paid $20,000 in utility bills,” McCandless said, all of which was donated money.

Often the generosity shown by the volunteers is contagious, as was the case when McCandless helped a mother whose heater had broken.

“We explained who we were when we called the heating company,” she said. “And they went out to fix it. Free of charge.”

Michelle’s Love will help five people at a time, McCandless said, to make sure that quality is valued over quantity. To fill those five available positions, the group mostly gets references through hospitals.

“When we started, my sister and I went and asked to meet with nurse navigators in local oncology units, so we built a relationship with them, and they like to call us quite a bit,” McCandless said.

That’s how she got connected with Slepicka, through a referral from an oncologist.

“Kelly was one of those moms, she was just a perfect match,” McCandless said.

As Slepicka continues with treatment, Michelle’s Love plans to continue helping her with various services.

“Two of the moms who showed up (on Jan. 10), they’ve been involved in Michelle’s Love since the beginning. They’re going to pick up her laundry, walk her dogs and pick up her meals for the next two weeks,” McCandless said.

And they’re all doing it for nothing in return.

“It’s really amazing,” Slepicka said. “Such an incredible gift to people who are going through something so hard.”

To learn more about Michelle’s Love, visit www.michelleslove.org.

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