By Todd Cohen
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In January 2005, looking for one charitable cycling event, A.J. DiBianca mistakenly found another.
So he rode in that event, the “Polar Bear Metric Century: Ride for Courage,” a 30-year-old ride that for the first time was benefiting a charity, Cancer Services in Winston-Salem.
He also struck up a conversation with the agency’s executive director that has led to his company serving as the event’s presenting sponsor in 2006 and 2007.
“I had been looking for a local charity to get employees excited about something, with our limited ability, that we could do something for,” says DiBianca, president and CEO of PhoneTree.
Cancer Services counts on sponsors like PhoneTree and events like the Ride for Courage to provide support as it expands to meet a growing need for services, says Tara Maxwell, executive director.
With a $950,000 annual budget and support from United Ways in Forsyth, Davie, Stokes and Yadkin counties, Cancer Services in 2006 served 19,000 clients in those and surrounding counties referred mainly by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and Forsyth Regional Cancer Center.
The agency provides community education for roughly half its clients, and patient services for the other half.
The number of clients has grown from 13,000 three years ago, with much of the growth generated by clients seeking financial assistance for medication and for needs ranging from paying monthly bills to buying medical devices.
And with cancer survivors living longer and fuller lives, Maxwell says, Cancer Services this year hired a wellness coordinator and recently completed its first five-week program, known as Survive and Thrive, to help survivors and their families cope with issues of survivorship ranging from physical recovery and serving as their own health advocate to addressing emotions and daily life.
The agency, with a staff of 8 people working full-time and one working part-time, counts on 550 volunteers who contribute 6,500 hours a year.
It receives 35 percent of its funds from the four United Ways, 28 percent from foundations, 25 percent from contributions and events sponsored by other organizations, and the remainder from special events it sponsors like the Ride for Courage.
The overall share of support from contributions has grown from 20 percent two years ago, mainly because of events sponsored by individuals and other organizations.
The Ride for Courage on New Year’s Day, for example, was expected to net $13,500, up from $10,000 last year and $5,700 in 2005.
The event received $7,000 from PhoneTree, including donations from all 40 employees and a matching gift from the company.
PhoneTree, which designs, manufactures and sells systems that medical practices, religious congregations and schools use to make automated calls, also has donated one of its systems to the agency, which will use it to notify clients about its programs and services.
PhoneTree employees also opted to hold a raffle at the company holiday party to raise money for Cancer Services.
Cancer Services, DeBianca says, is “a highly dedicated group of folks that touch the lives of a lot of people without asking anything in return.”