Michelle’s Place working on funding for phase two of expansion project

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Bruce Nimmo of Nimmo Construction helps lead the construction of the new Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center in Temecula. Valley News/Shane Gibson photo

Last summer, Michelle’s Place Cancer Resource Center officially closed escrow on the expansive new location in Temecula. This spring, the center is in the middle of phase two of the fundraising for the remainder of the construction project still underway.

“Construction is moving full speed ahead, which is super exciting,” Kim Gerrish, executive director of Michelle’s Place, said. “We launched the second phase of the capital campaign, which was $250,000 in January and so far we have about $100,000 of it, which allows us to continue doing construction.”

The new location on Winchester Road in Temecula will, one day, feature dozens of rooms including a great room, library, conference room, office spaces, support group rooms and tranquility rooms for relaxation.

As of yet, a good amount of those spaces have yet to be built out.

“After one full year of providing resources for all cancers, we almost doubled the amount of people we saw last year because of it,” Gerrish said. “Obviously, we knew there was gonna be a huge increase, but that’s a lot, especially in the small space that we’re currently operating out of. And then we added a bunch of new groups.

“We have a caregiver support group (collaboration with Elizabeth Hospice), which is obviously great for caregivers of cancer patients. And we started a new journaling group called ‘Journal the Journey,’” she said.

To handle these new groups, Michelle’s Place has added a lot of new volunteers to the team and are monitoring their workload.

“We are closely monitoring the workload and how we are doing things,” Gerrish said. “We hired a volunteer coordinator so (volunteers) can have the best training and we can fit them with what they’re good at, what they want to do.

“We’re relying on our volunteer workforce a lot more and, and our patient navigators have been going through training and looking at ways to be more efficient, effective for our clients as well so that we can still make sure we’re treating our clients the best way we can,” she said. “Honestly, you know, with such a small space, we still can only provide so many classes and groups because we don’t have the space to hold them.”

Construction continues throughout the week inside the building.

“Once those sides (of the building) open, we can have a support group at the same time that we’re having an art therapy class at the same time as providing reiki for a client,” Gerrish said. “There can be multiple things happening at a time. One of ours is we want to do a whole family support group night.

“So what ideally we would do is we cook a meal for these families, they come to dinner with each other, they have dinner with these other families and then when dinner is over, they all break into their own groups. We have the cancer patient support group, we have the kids’ support group, and then we have the caregiver support group. They’re all coming together at one night, sharing a meal with everybody who’s going through the same kind of stuff they’re going through, which provides support in itself,” she said.

Once that side of the building is complete, things will really take off.

“I think that’s where we’re gonna really see the growth because there’ll just be more opportunities for people to come in and get resources,” Gerrish said.

Gerrish and Michelle’s Place is working hard to find donations and in-kind labor and materials donations to reach their goal. Of course, cash donations are great, but there are many other ways to help.

“We have a couple of different things going on right now,” Gerrish said. “We’re selling bricks that you could have engraved, and we’re lining the entrance to Michelle’s Place. Those are $500, and they will be there forever as a part of Michelle’s Place history. Um, so that’s one way we’re raising money. We’re having Spring Fling on May 2.

“We were always looking for help with construction and labor and materials. We’re kind of going step by step. Right now, we’re looking for T-bar ceiling and the actual T-bar materials, and we’re also looking for the labor,” she said.

Gerrish said she has one gentleman who offered to hang all the doors at the center.

“It’s not actually an easy thing to do to get a door hung correctly and straight,” she said. “He said, ‘When you’re ready to hang the doors, I’ll do all your doors.’ That’s kind of a specialty thing, which is cool, so people have just been calling and offering their help because they can’t write the check, but they have skills and that is a great opportunity for them to use their skills to help Michelle’s Place. And we’ve been fortunate because we’ve gotten a lot of those donations.”

For more information on the Michelle’s Place Expansion Project, visit www.michellesplace.org/expansion.

For help with a cancer-related issue, contact the group at (951) 699-5455 or info@michellesplace.org. The new address is 41669 Winchester Road, Suite 101, in Temecula.

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