Tuesday, December 13, 2011

TOP STORY >> Support ministry helps patients

Leader staff writer

When Faith Baptist Church of Cabot began its Faith Support Ministry and Keep the Faith Foundation for Kids with Cancer, members discovered what patients need most: Encouragement and financial assistance.

Faith Support Ministry, founded in 2004, is a program geared toward adults diagnosed with cancer. It has served 545 families and raised $32,758.

Keep the Faith was founded in 2007 in memory of three children, Dakota Hawkins, Jazlyn Ferguson and Caleb Sims. Dakota inspired everyone with his constant reminder to keep the faith.

Keep the Faith was also established to serve children diagnosed with cancer after the program’s leaders realized families dealing with a child struggling with the disease had different dynamics and different needs from those served by Faith Support Ministry.

Keep the Faith has served 112 families and raised $81,409.

“One difference between them (the programs) was that we realized one of the greatest burdens on those families is the financial burden because one parent has to quit their job to stay home to take care of the child,” said director Elaine Moran.

The primary purpose of both programs is to nurture patients spiritually.

The main way volunteers help adult patients through Faith Support Ministry is with handmade encouragement cards.

“When we first started doing this, I never imagined we would hear back from people. An amazing thing happened. We started getting back a lot of responses from people we were sending cards to. The people who have sent cards have formed relationships with those people. That has been very, very special. It’s been such a blessing that we didn’t anticipate. We were so blessed by the ministry and the people we were supporting,” Moran said.

When someone gives the group a name, volunteers send the patient a care package that includes a lap-sized monogrammed blanket, a “Psalms of Encouragement” CD and a letter telling recipients who gave the ministry their name.

The letter also says volunteers hope the blanket will keep them warm and remind them that they are being prayed for.

The blanket features patients’ first names, the words “Faith Support Ministry” so they know the gift giver and a verse from the Bible: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

After the package is sent, a volunteer is assigned to send them the cards.

Moran said divine intervention has helped the group’s programs, explaining that in one instance she was late getting a care package sent off.

The son of the patient called and said the package arrived at just the right time. He and his father were driving home from a doctor’s appointment, and his father kept saying he needed a blanket. When they arrived home, the package was in the mail, and the blanket was the perfect size.

Moran shared some quotes from e-mails she has received about the programs.

One e-mail said, “Please convey to everyone in the ministry how vital and important it is to us. You are doing amazing work.”

Another e-mail read, “You joined us through the power of prayer as we struggled, cried, gave up on, feared, hoped and faced the next climb on this mountain. Thank you for the cards that helped lighten our burden. Please never stop praying.”

The program has helped families to provide a good Christmas, but it does not have annual holiday events, other than volunteers sending patients Christmas cards.

One major fundraiser is held each year for the programs.

The Keep the Faith community and statewide Pennies From Heaven Fundraiser kicks off in March.

The Faith Support Ministry 5K is held on the first day of CabotFest. This year, special teams participated to support a specific patient with special needs so that every $15 out of $20 went to that patient. $7,200 was awarded after the event.

Other efforts to generate financial assistance for families include Keep the Faith’s annual Hallelujah Harmony Quartet concert.

The foundation also receives money from fundraising by the ROTC, Cabot Cruisers car show, Jacksonville/Cabot Real Estate Council, Kiwanis Club of Cabot and the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. Michael W. Ray Post No. 4548.

Faith Support Ministry hosts the annual Faith Support Ministry Christmas gift and craft fair and is funded by memorial donations, honorariums and private donations.