Gilda's Club Aligns with Hospice

September 29, 2010 Updated Sep 29, 2010 at 9:01 AM EDT

By Tracey Drury (Business First of Buffalo)

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Gilda's Club Aligns with Hospice

September 29, 2010 Updated Sep 29, 2010 at 9:01 AM EDT

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW/BUSINESS FIRST) - A week after the resignation of its executive director, Gilda's Club Western New York has announced a partnership with The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care.

A letter mailed this week to past Gilda's Club board members explained the organization will retain its independent nonprofit status and continue its existing programming, while benefiting from increased financial stability.

"We are excited about the partnership with The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care and firmly believe the community will benefit from the collaboration while ensuring Gilda's Club's important services are available for years to come," said Jock Mitchell, board chairman.

According to the letter, the move is based largely on finances. Founded on a model that calls for 100 percent of income to come from fundraising, the organization has struggled to keep up with its expenses as philanthropic dollars become more scarce.

Gilda's Club will gain "much-needed" fundraising and marketing support to allow it to continue to provide social and emotional support to those touched by cancer.

Founded in 1978, the Hospice Buffalo family is among the nation's 25-largest hospice organizations with 550 employees and a total operating budget of $54.5 million. The organization includes eight affiliates and several programs involving palliative care, including programs for children, adults and families coping with serious illness and loss. Gilda's Club will become an affiliate effective Oct. 18.

The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care is also undergoing a search for a new leader. In early September, William Finn announced his resignation as president and CEO, with plans to seek opportunities with hospice organizations nationally. Board trustee Flint Besecker was named as interim CEO.

Gilda's Club will retain its name and program activities are expected to continue, with enhancements. The clubhouse on Delaware Avenue will continue to serve as the main program site as well, with membership remaining free of charge. Additionally, the organization will remain an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community.

With an annual budget of about $500,000, the organization offers support groups, education and healthy lifestyle activities in a non-clinical setting for people affected by cancer, their families and friends.

Mary Beth Karr, founding executive director, resigned earlier this month saying she felt it was time to move on. Day-to-day operations are being handled by Kathy Kurtz, program manager, while a search continues for a new executive director.

Nearly a year ago, Gilda's Club Worldwide completed a merger with The Wellness Community, creating a new identity for both as the Cancer Support Community. At the time, Karr said the merger would enhance program offerings for the Buffalo group's 11,060 members.

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