WELLSBURG - A kind gesture to a woman coping with breast cancer has inspired her to reach out to others with the disease and an endeavor that has included a calendar and an upcoming sale of used prom dresses.
Florence Fleener, an Oakdale, Pa., resident and Avella native, said after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, her husband's boss arranged for a meal to be sent to their home.
Fleener said she was working 30 hours a week, attending school part-time and looking after two boys, ages 8 and 12, while undergoing radiation therapy and appreciated not having to prepare a meal.
SPECIAL?SALE?PLANNED — Sisters Florence Fleener of Oakdale, Pa. and Denise Grooms of Wellsburg and friends will hold a used prom dress sale on March 13 to raise funds for restaurant gift cards and certificates they provide to area women undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Preparing for the event are, from left: Chadlee Rogerson, Grooms, Fleener and Kara Jablonski.
It got her to thinking that others coping with breast cancer might appreciate the same thing. Fleener and her sister, Denise Grooms of Wellsburg, began sending a restaurant gift card or certificates to breast cancer patients they learned about through family or friends.
Sometimes they provide cards of certificates for hair or nail salons and spas, Grooms said.
She said family and friends of breast cancer patients approach them for the cards, sometimes asking that their involvement be kept a secret.
"They (the cancer patients) don't know that it's coming and they're thrilled when they get it," Grooms said.
Fleener said though the cards or certificates are good for just one visit to a restaurant, salon or spa, they serve to encourage and lighten the load for cancer patients and their families.
"They find they're not fighting this alone," she said, adding, "It (breast cancer) doesn't just affect the person who is diagnosed. It affects everybody around them."
The pair said area businesses have been very supportive, providing gift cards at a discount or matching the amount purchased by the two. As word of the pair's effort spread, the sisters received more requests.
To raise funds, they came up with a calendar featuring photos of breast cancer survivors and the families of people who died while battling the disease, said Grooms.
Most of the photos are taken by Grooms and Fleener, with participants sometimes submitting their own.
The sisters also have sold used homecoming and prom dresses.
Fleener guessed that in light of the challenging economy, many parents would welcome the opportunity to purchase a dress for their teens at a low cost. It also offers a way for people to recycle the dresses, which often are worn only once or twice, she added.
The sisters didn't heavily advertise their first homecoming dress sale last fall, but it was successful enough to encourage them to try a prom dress sale this year.
The sale will be held from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. March 13 at Staffileno's on the River, 801 Main St. The sisters welcome donations of gently used dresses of various sizes and from the last few years since it's important to teens that they be in style on their big day. Anyone interested in donating a dress should call Grooms at (304) 737-4238 or Fleener at (412) 335-4238.
There also will be drawings for a prom bouquet, donated by Honey's Florist of Follansbee, and hairstyling and manicures supplied by Bre's Tropical Illusions of Wellsburg.
Those not in the market for a prom dress can help the pair's efforts by purchasing one of their calendars.
Dubbed "Faces, Family & Friends," the calendar is in its second year and includes photos of breast cancer survivors from around the tri-state area, including one man, as well as photos of families holding a photo of a loved one lost to the disease.
Produced by D&GG Marketing Communications and Advertising of Pittsburgh, the calendar features a different person each month, with illustrations reflecting that individual's interests.
The page for May serves as a reminder of the Susan G. Komen Pittsburgh Race for the Cure. Chaired this year by Fleener, the event will be held May 8.
It is one of many 5-kilometer run-walks held by the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization to raise funds for cancer research, education, advocacy and health services.
Information about the Pittsburgh event can be found at www.komenpittsburgh.org.
To defray the calendar's cost, various businesses and individuals sponsor each month, and D&GG has provided some for no cost.
The calendars are $20 each and can be found at Bloom's Antiques or His Place Christian bookstore, both in Wellsburg; at Judy Georgetti Hair Salon or Valerie Lis Photography Studio, both in Avella; or by calling Fleener, Grooms or Joyce Simmons, (724) 587-3453; or Gretchen Clemens, (412) 576-3615.
Information about the calendars also can be found at www.facesandfamilybreastcancer.org.
Grooms said the pair hope to attain status as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, most likely using the calendar's name.
It's proven to be a busy year for Fleener and Grooms, as a neighbor has expressed interest in coordinating a motorcycle run in June.
The sisters expressed appreciation to many friends, family members and supporters who have helped them with their endeavor.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)