One of the first big tasks for Becky Duffey, the new executive director of Susan G. Komen Eastern Washington, will be to oversee an extensive update of the organization’s role in the community.
Komen Eastern Washington is the Spokane-based affiliate of Dallas-based Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which bills itself as the largest breast cancer support, prevention, and nongovernment sponsor of research in the U.S.
“We’re developing a new community profile that involves an extensive process of analyzing community needs and concludes with a mission action plan that lists the objectives we want to focus on,” says Duffey, who was hired to her position in May.
Since the Eastern Washington affiliate was incorporated in 2003, it has awarded $3.4 million in grants to 166 programs within the community and has forwarded nearly $1 million to its national affiliate for breast cancer research programs.
Earlier this year, Komen Eastern Washington awarded 15 community grants totaling more than $362,000. That’s the highest total dollar amount raised by the affiliate since 2011, when Komen Eastern Washington awarded 22 grants totaling nearly $430,000.
The mission action plan, which the affiliate is required to update every few years, likely will be completed this month or next, Duffey says.
E’lise M. Balogh, the affiliate’s mission coordinator, says Komen Eastern Washington likely will focus on expanding support for breast health and screening services in American Indian, migrant-worker, and refugee communities throughout the 14 Eastern Washington counties the affiliate serves.
Duffey adds, “We’ll also focus on rural areas that are so removed from clinics where many women don’t have insurance or they’re underinsured.”
Starting toward that effort, current Komen Eastern Washington grant recipients include Native Health Clinic of Spokane for its women’s health services, the Spokane Tribe of Indians for its breast health program, and the Providence St. Mary Foundation to expand and promote health services for Hispanic women.
Duffey says some women who qualify for Medicare benefits can receive an annual mammogram with no out-of-pocket costs, and Obamacare requires that most private health insurance plans cover routine mammograms with no deductible or co-pay for women over 40. Yet, a disproportionate number of women in rural areas who qualify for such services don’t know about them, she asserts.
Across the organization, Komen’s largest fundraiser is the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, which is held on various dates by host affiliates.
Komen Eastern Washington holds its Race for the Cure in April.
More than 5,000 runners and walkers participated in the 2015 event in Spokane, which raised $195,000.
Race participant numbers have been down, though, since the national group’s controversial and short-lived decision to discontinue funding Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s breast cancer screening services in 2012.
“That made the organization political where it didn’t need to be political,” Duffey says. “When it defunded Planned Parenthood, we lost liberal supporters, and when it re-funded Planned Parenthood, we lost conservative supporters.”
She says the funding was never about politics, because it always was and still is meant to fund cancer screening for women who don’t have access to health services, much the same as Komen Eastern Washington’s annual grant support for Providence Health Care’s mobile mammography coach.
“Planned Parenthood was the only place some women could go for health care before Obamacare,” Duffey says.
Screening programs save lives, she asserts, adding that the five-year survival rate is 90 percent for women with breast cancer who are diagnosed before the cancer spreads to other parts of the body.
She says that in the last 10 years, Komen Eastern Washington grants have helped provide 21,000 diagnostic services and 8,000 clinical breast exams leading to detection of more than 180 breast cancers.
In other grants, Komen Eastern Washington awarded funds to YMCA of the Inland Northwest cancer survivor support services, Lake Roosevelt Community Health, and the Washington state Department of Health breast, cervical, and colon health program in Eastern Washington.
Other Komen Eastern Washington grant recipients include Because There is Hope, which provides lodging and gas cards for breast cancer patients from outlying areas; Hospice of Spokane for palliative and hospice care services; and Native Health Clinic of Spokane’s women’s health program.
Duffey says she first became involved directly with the foundation when it hired her, although she has extensive experience working for community-based nonprofits.
Beyond nonprofit work, Duffey had worked for 10 years in sales and marketing at Apple Computer Inc., in California, and for five years with the Monterey County, Calif., health department.
“I’ve been involved with nonprofits about 12 years. It’s important to me to have a job that gives a sense of purpose,” she says, adding that it’s most gratifying to help women and families with breast cancer.
Duffey has seen someone close to her struggle with breast cancer without such support.
“I have a good friend who’s a survivor,” Duffey says. “I saw how she fought that battle alone, and she didn’t have to. If I had been working here, I would have been able to get her support.”
In addition to Duffey and Balogh, Komen Eastern Washington’s staff includes a part-time bookkeeper, and an event coordinator. The affiliate occupies a small, two-room office suite on the third floor of the Jefferson 400 building on Spokane’s lower South Hill.
The affiliate also relies on hundreds of volunteers that help organize fundraising events.
Third-party groups, such as the Pink Tie Guys, a 12-man leadership group, also spread awareness and raise donations for the Komen cause.
Komen Eastern Washington’s next fundraising event will be the Laugh for the Cure, which is held in October as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
This year’s event will be on Oct. 15 at the Lincoln Center, at 1316 N. Lincoln, where doors will open at 5 p.m. The stand-up comedy event will star comics Dean Oleson, of Seattle, and Ryan Wingfield, of Boise.
The ticket price is $75. The Spokane Tribe of Indians is the presenting sponsor.
Except for skin cancers, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women, according to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit breast cancer information clearinghouse.
This year alone, an estimated 231,800 cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S., and one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during her lifetime, Breastcancer.org says, adding that although death rates have been decreasing over the last three decades, breast cancer will kill an estimated 40,300 women in the U.S. this year.
Susan G. Komen for the Cure is named for Susan Goodman Komen, who died of breast cancer at the age of 36 in 1980. Komen’s younger sister Nancy Goodman Brinker founded the nonprofit in 1982 under its original name, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
The overall organization reported 2014 revenue of $198.2 million, down from peak revenue of $302.2 million in 2011.
Charity Navigator, a nonprofit watchdog group, reported that in 2014 80 percent of Komen’s total expenses went to services it delivers, while 11 percent was spent on fundraising, and 9 percent went to administrative expenses.
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