New volunteers, grant funding for Eel River Valley Breast Health Services

Three new volunteers have joined the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project to spread the word about breast and gynecologic services available in the Eel River Valley.

Sonya Houseworth, Francine Peterson, and Joanne Center decided to get involved after close friends were diagnosed with breast cancer, and to give back to their community. All three women live in Fortuna and volunteer their time at the Eel River Valley outreach site at 1719 Main St.

The Breast Health Project shares office space with Visiting Angels in Fortuna, and all services provided are free and confidential.

Volunteer Wanda Rigby stressed the free services available.

"We can set up a free consultation with a doctor in Arcata," she said, "and we can help women obtain free mammograms."

Although established in July of last year, Rigby said it has been difficult getting the word out that the Eel River Valley outreach site is open. She also believes many women who have been diagnosed with breast or gynecologic cancers are overwhelmed and not sure where to turn.

"What I see right now are women in this area less willing to come in and talk about cancer," Rigby said. "Yet after they come in, they are glad they did, and they are better able to talk about it in all settings."

The Eel River Valley outreach site is currently open on Tuesdays from 5-6 p.m. and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The support group meets the first Tuesday of every month from 6-7:30 p.m.

The Outreach Center has recently been awarded a nearly $5,000 McLean Foundation grant, to be used for start-up costs and a variety of ways to increase public awareness of the services available.

The plan is to purchase curtains and lights to create a comfortable, private space for clients to meet for services, and to install phone and fax lines. Currently there are no phone jacks in the facility.

The grant will also cover the cost of producing outreach materials including a brochure specific to the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project's Eel River Valley outreach site, and business cards for the volunteers. There are also plans to expand the existing lending library of books and health educational materials.

Other generous community donations include Visiting Angels sharing their Fortuna Main Street business location at no cost to the Breast Health Project, and contributions from Soroptimist International of Eel River Valley and Fortuna Sunrise Rotary.

Photo by Mary Bullwinkel/Beacon

From left: Sonya Houseworth, Francine Peterson and Joanne Center are new volunteers at the Humboldt Community Breast Health Project's Eel River Valley outreach site at 1719 Main St. in Fortuna.