By Steve Blanchard
A large group of faith-based and community organizations gathered at Moffitt Cancer Center to network and share resources at the inaugural Faith and Community Leaders Conference.
The conference, which brought in 13 organizations and more than 165 attendees, is designed to provide resources for providers, faith-based leaders and other organizations to create valuable connections.
“We have done smaller events before, like the quarterly pastors’ breakfasts,” said Chantel Griffin-Stampfer, manager of the Moffitt Program for Outreach, Wellness Education and Resources (M-POWER). “This time we wanted to open it up and broaden the spectrum, so we included community organization leaders.”
M-POWER organized the event and invited organizations to spend the morning learning about resources in the community that can be utilized for the uninsured, underinsured and insured alike.
“The feedback has been very positive,” Griffin-Stampfer said. “Everyone is experiencing our goal, which was to broaden everyone’s community network. This goes beyond cancer care and screenings. This broadens things to the faith-based community and more and new connections are being made. It’s incredible.”
For Melissa Vazquez, the conference was a perfect time for her to share information about Sisters Network, a community organization that reaches out to the female African-American population of Tampa Bay and for which she is vice president.
“This event means a lot because it can help get our name out there,” Vazquez said. “We have Pink Sunday, which is when we go to a church and say, ‘hey, we are here to help you.’ We go to health fairs and when someone meets us, they learn so much.”
Vazquez said that when Moffitt learned about Sisters Network, M-POWER reached out and asked to form a partnership, which benefits both organizations.
“We try to be where Moffitt is, and Moffitt tries to be where we are,” Vazquez said. “By working together we can reach so many more people.”
One of the biggest benefits of the partnership with Moffitt is the availability of vouchers for mammograms, she added.
“Before we had these, we relied solely on donations to fund mammograms, which are about $95 each,” Vazquez said. “These vouchers from Moffitt have changed things dramatically. We are not limited by donations and can get more women to detect breast cancer earlier.”
And Vazquez knows about early detection. In 2015, she learned she had Stage 3 breast cancer. Through a vigorous treatment regimen at Moffitt, including chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy, she beat the disease a year later.
“Moffitt saved my life, so that makes me even more proud to be here.” The Faith and Community Leaders Conference may become an annual event, according to Griffin-Stampfer. And if the right partnerships are found, even more similar events may pop up throughout the year.