Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center reopens its doors to clients

Michelle's Place
Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center employees and volunteers posed for a photo Monday, June 1, in front of the center to show that they are back in the office and ready to serve clients. Valley News/Courtesy photo

Considering the nation was going through a worldwide pandemic and the majority of clients that Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center serves are immunocompromised – the center had to close its door March 20.

On Monday, June 1, with the county and state beginning to allow more and more businesses to reopen, Michelle’s Place decided to reopen.

They have begun accepting appointments for in-house visitations and virtual visitations, the latter being something the organization continued throughout the shutdown.

For those that feel the need to visit the center in person, executive director Kim Gerrish laid out the procedures and safety measures in place to ensure the safety of their clients.

Gerrish said that all guests will be screened upon entrance. They will also be asked to stop at the sanitation station, masks will be required, staff are required to as well and they will limit the number of people in the center to accommodate social distancing requirements.

Gerrish said they are encouraging clients to make an appointment before coming in and the staff will work diligently to sanitize the facilities throughout the day. All wigs, prosthesis and hats will be sanitized thoroughly.

“We want our clients, staff and volunteers to feel safe at Michelle’s Place,” Gerrish said. “We had the center professionally sanitized by Pulido Cleaning and Restoration.”

Gerrish said clients were excited to hear about the reopening.

“Especially the ones needing wigs and prosthesis,” she said.

She said that while the doors were closed, it didn’t mean the role of Michelle’s Place in the lives of clients stopped.

“Our team is amazing,” Gerrish said. “They immediately pivoted and started calling our clients. Since our closure on March 20, our navigators have made 831 calls to clients.

“Our clients were scared because they are already immune-compromised, many are unable to work, and their caregivers were unable to work. They felt alone. Many were surprised and grateful that we were still providing resources. We have delivered groceries and essentials to over 130 families who are dealing with cancer. And, we immediately started providing our support groups virtually through Zoom.

“They have been well-attended; 65 people have attended our virtual groups. This is something we will continue providing for those that don’t feel well and still want to be part of the group,” Gerrish said.

Though the doors are open for on-site navigation, wig fittings, prosthesis fittings, hats, wigs and scarves, the support groups will remain virtual for the remainder of the month, Gerrish said.

“We will revisit the overall operations and procedures at the end of the month and see if it’s safe to open more of our programs such as on-site support groups, reiki, art class, etc.,” she said.

The center, which moved locations within the past year, was in the midst of the next phase fundraising to continue to build out the new, bigger center.

The coronavirus pandemic put a serious damper on those efforts.

“Fundraising is tough,” Gerrish said. “We had to cancel our Spring Fling. But we are hosting our golf tournament on Aug. 21, and our 5K Walk of Hope will be Nov. 8 at South Coast Winery.”

Slowly but surely things are opening up for the center and for clients, but Gerrish said she still had concerns.

“We are concerned that newly diagnosed clients don’t know we are here for them,” she said. “And we know many were not diagnosed during this time due to office closures. We want our community to know we are here and ready to help them through this time.

“Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic,” Gerrish said.

For more information on Michelle’s Place, visit http://www.michellesplace.org or call (951) 699-5455.

Jeff Pack can be reached by email at jpack@reedermedia.com.