'The peace to recover'
Nonprofit Michelle's Love aims to simplify life for single parents with cancer
Shortly after she was diagnosed with breast cancer this past March, West Linn resident Pamela OHare received a call from a social worker at her doctors office.
OHare had filled out an intake questionnaire at the office, and marked yes under a section that asked if she had financial concerns. As she adjusted to her new reality, OHare a mother of two young children said her head was in all kinds of places.
Doctors appointments. Cancer. Kids. Work. How was she going to balance it all?
As she was returning from a round of blood tests, OHare took that call from the social worker.
Pam, the social worker said. Call Michelles Love right now. She has a space for you.
Michelles Love, as OHare soon learned, is a nonprofit run by Scappoose resident Andy McCandless. Formed in 2011, the organization provides financial assistance for single mothers who are undergoing treatment for cancer. OHare, as it turned out, was a perfect candidate.
What we do is provide financial assistance that goes directly towards utility bills, rentals, mortgage, doctor bills, anything thats stressing them out, McCandless said. We dont give our moms cash; we get on the phone with PGE and Northwest Natural Gas and we pay those bills directly. We provide easy to prepare meals from Dream Dinners, and we clean houses.
Michelles Love is named after McCandless best friend, Michelle Singleton, a single mother who died of cancer in 2005. McCandless started the nonprofit in Arizona under a different name before moving to Oregon in 2011, at which point she created Michelles Love.
A lot of cancer charities are research-based, and in the meantime people need help, McCandless said. So thats kind of where it came from ... I found a mom who was single at the place where Michelle got chemo treatments at, and me and some friends and family got together to help her out, and it kind of snowballed from that.
In running Michelles Love, McCandless is dedicated to keeping it small.
We help up to six or seven moms at a time, max, and I really want to do quality versus quantity, McCandless said.
That means providing about $500 a month to single mothers or fathers, generally for a duration of five or six months while patients go through the treatment process. The idea is to take care of lifes most basic problems while patients focus on conquering their illness.
As long as you have food and your bills are paid, you dont really need anything, McCandless said. Thats what Michelles Love is all about. Its not about wants, its about needs.
That gives you the peace to recover, OHare said. It relieves the stress so your body can heal itself.
McCandless is also adamant that an individuals financial situation is irrelevant when it comes to Michelles Love. When OHare first contacted McCandless, she said she didnt want to receive help at the expense of someone who might need it more.
McCandless answer was simple.
Just because you have your (stuff) together, doesnt mean you dont need help, she told OHare.
And indeed, OHares work hours have dropped dramatically to accommodate her treatment making her comfortable lifestyle decidedly less so.
Youre not working, and thats not because youre not trying, McCandless said. Youre not working because of cancer. ... We pay your bills no matter your financial bracket or class. We dont discriminate against that.
And thus, as OHare continues her journey through treatment, she can do so with an enhanced peace of mind. It keeps us on track, she said. It keeps me from derailing.
Find out more at michelleslove.org or 503-459-1245