Q: What is Friends Together?
A: Friends Together is a non-profit organization of caring people offering support and assistance so that no one in our community will have to deal with cancer alone. It is our mission to be the difference in the lives of friends during and after their cancer experience. We strive to build partnerships; provide programs and services; encourage prevention, wellness, and support.
Q: How Long Has Friends Together Existed?
A: Friends Together was formed in the summer of 1996. Judy Burns started Friends as a direct result of her experience with her daughter, Dawn, who battled colon cancer. Understanding the lack of support for families struggling with cancer in northeast Michigan, Judy brought the community together to form Friends Together. She continues her advocacy today as President and Executive Director of our organization.
Q: Why Haven’t I Heard Of Friends Together Before Now?
A: Hard to say, but probably this is a result of your own need to know. For many years, we were a 100% volunteer organization, including Judy. She did as much as she and a few volunteers could accomplish while working full time. Judy chose to retire from the insurance industry in 2010. Friends Together has flourished with Judy’s full-time attention.
Q: Who Qualifies For Help From Friends Together?
A: Our mission is 100% focused on people in northeast lower Michigan who are dealing with cancer. This includes current patients, survivors, caregivers, and immediate family members. Cancer is the only qualification. Our ability to assist any individual is limited primarily by the amount of funding available to us for that service.
Q: Do you offer discounts to active duty or retired military personnel and their families?
A: Friends Together services are free to all. Our veterans, active duty military, and their families need not worry about cost or continuity of care. We work closely with Veteran Affairs locally and can provide transportation to veterans hospitals throughout the state of Michigan. In 2016 alone, Friends Together provided roundtrip transportation and lodging for 8 area veterans to veteran hospitals in Michigan for cancer care.
Q: What Can Friends Together Do For Me?
A: Our purpose is focused on supporting local people struggling with a cancer diagnosis. We want to be the positive difference in your life during and after your cancer experience. If there is anything we are able to do to make your journey less stressful, we will do it!
- We do have consistent programs and services:
- We have bi-weekly (every other week) support groups active in Rogers City and Alpena.
- We host periodic support opportunities in Alcona & Montmorency Counties.
- We have transportation support services (see below).
- We offer periodic community education programs throughout the six counties we actively serve.
- We are available to meet with individuals and families one-to-one.
- We readily share information and referral services from other helping programs.
- We have a Friends Together volunteer who is available at the Alpena Cancer Center two days a week (or so) to support you.
- We can join you at some medical appointments if you need a set of ears.
- We can be your advocate if you need one.
- We provide women going through upper body cancer surgery a professionally fitted under-clothing and prosthetics.
- We host our Touch of Beauty program for women in active cancer treatment. Touch of Beauty is a free girls-night-out hosted by Friends Together and Donovan’s.
- We provide one professionally fit and styled wig to women who experience hair loss due to cancer treatment.
- We represent you and our community on the Cancer and Breast Health Committees at the Alpena Cancer Center.
Detailed Friends Together information can be found by calling us directly or asking at the Alpena Cancer Center.
Q: What is Included In Your Transportation & Lodging Assistance Program?
A: We help individuals with some of the costs that go along with receiving cancer treatment.
We typically provide a $50 gasoline gift card to local residents needing to drive downstate for a cancer-related medical appointment. We may also assist with lodging, if needed. Typically, we will pay for one or two nights at a hotel near the treatment facility. Each situation is looked at individually to decide how we can best help. We generally use hotels that are a part of the treatment facility’s discount program.
Sometimes a patient may require help with local travel to appointments. We typically offer a $25 gasoline gift card for local travel to and from your cancer treatments. These Friends Together gasoline gift cards are available by contacting the social worker at the Alpena Cancer Center.
We distribute gift cards carefully because we want to be able to help as many friends as we can. As one friend wrote, “…the gas cards made the trips to chemo a little more tolerable.”
Friends Together also maintains two vans that can help patients with travel to and from medical appointments pertaining to a cancer diagnosis. Our drivers are trained through the American Cancer Society’s Road to Recovery Program. A request for van transportation starts by contacting the social work office at the Alpena Cancer Center or Friends Together, directly.
Priority is given to patients traveling to and from the Alpena Cancer Center. The second van is used for trips out of the area for those requiring treatment in another Michigan facility.
Q: How Can I Become A Driver for Friends Together?
A: We train our drivers in a cooperative effort through the American Cancer Society’s national Road to Recovery program. The training is absolutely required if you want to drive a Friends Together van. Training is held once or twice each year in our region. Please contact us at 356-3231 if you are interested in being a driver.
Q: Where Does Your Money Come From?
A: About one-third of our operational budget comes from Mid-Michigan Health – Alpena. The balance is from gifts from people like you and from our formal fund raising efforts. Over the years, our ability to help those experiencing the strain of a cancer diagnosis relies more and more on gifts and fund raising efforts. Recently, Zonta of Alpena made a generous donation directly to our programs designed especially for the needs of women.
The firm of Johnson & Schulze, PC, performs an annual audit of our financial statements and prepares our federal tax filing, Form 990 EZ. This form is available for public inspection upon request, or through several online sites such as Guidestar.org.
Q: Does Friends Together Receive Funding From The American Cancer Society?
A: No. Friends Together is completely independent of the American Cancer Society – and any other national, state or regional organization. Our mission is entirely focused on northeast Michigan. All the dollars given to and raised by Friends Together stays in our service area. We do cooperate with the American Cancer Society to improve support services for our region.
Q: Will Friends Together Have An Office In Rogers City? (or any other county?)
A: While we do not have any current plans to establish a formal office presence outside Alpena, we continually review needs in the six counties we serve.
Q: How Is Your Organization Organized?
A: Friends Together is registered as a non-profit corporation in the State of Michigan. We are recognized under IRS Code Section 501(c)(3) at the federal level.
A fifteen member Board of Directors governs Friends Together. Our Board meets eight times annually. The annual meeting is scheduled for the third Tuesday in September of each year.
We currently have three full-time staff members. They are Judy Burns, Bill Morford and Lesslee Dort. We each have specific functions and we all assist in supporting our friends and neighbors as they come to us during their struggle with cancer.
Q: I Am Interested In Giving A Gift. How Can I Do That?
A: We certainly rely on your compassion and generosity. Friends Together would not be able to help as many people undergoing cancer treatment without your help!
We have many ways for you to express your care for our friends and neighbors struggling with cancer:
You may send a gift by check made out to Friends Together and mailed to our office at 105 Prentiss Street, Alpena, MI 49707.
You may donate by credit card or Paypal by visiting our website at www.friendstogethermi.org and clicking the “Donate Now” page. You do not need a Paypal account to use this service. Paypal does charge us a small fee when you use this service.
Here is the way we enjoy the most…stop by our office to visit and bring your gift in person! We will tell you everything we know about how your gift will make a difference…limited only by your time to listen!
Watch for our annual appeal letter in your mailbox in the Fall of each year. The “Dawn Marie Burns Promise Fund” provides general support for all that we do at Friends Together.
You may wish to make a gift in honor of a loved one struggling with cancer, or in memory of a loved one who has died. Memorial envelopes are often available at local funeral homes, or you may simply send us your gift and directions.
We offer several fund raising programs throughout the year. Consider coming and joining the fun! Visit our website event calendar for details.
Sometimes a tangible gift is great, too! We appreciate gifts of copy paper, paper towels, paper plates, coffee, and like items.
Q: Do You Recognize Memorial Gifts?
A: Yes, we do our best to recognize every gift.
Q: Can I Designate A Gift For A Special Purpose?
A: Yes. We call these designated gifts. If we accept a designated gift, we are agreeing to use it for the specific purpose indicated by the donor. If we can’t make that promise to you, we can’t accept your gift. A commonly designated gift we receive is for the purpose of supporting our medical transportation service. For example, many people designate their gift specifically to purchase gasoline gift cards. Since we buy almost $30,000 worth of gas cards annually, your designated gifts really help! Others have made gifts to keep our vans fueled and maintained
Q: Yes, We Have Administrative Costs!
A: We know…that’s not really a question…but let’s answer anyway! Our auditor stated last December that, based on our most current report, we can safely say that at least 86 cents of every dollar we receive is spent on programs and services. The remaining 14 cents covers overhead and fund raising activities. We strive to allocate our time among the three functions of program, management and fund raising. Fact is, our three staff members “do it all” with the help of our Board and other volunteers. Our purpose is to support our local cancer survivors, caregivers, and families. Our staff does get paid for their work. We strive to be readily available and to always do everything we can do to be truly supportive.
Together as Friends We Continue to Make a Difference