Mary Blair, left, helps her mom, Erma Oswalt, select food to take home while at Nightingale's Harvest food pantry at St. James Lutheran Church in Sylvania. The pantry helps people who, like Ms. Oswalt, have cancer.
Erma Oswalt doesn't mince words about the cancer that spread from her tongue to her throat and liver since it was diagnosed about a year ago.
"I'm going to survive it because I'm a fighter," said the 49-year-old Holland, Ohio, resident.
But Ms. Oswalt readily admits she needs help during the onslaught, which already has involved surgery and next may include chemotherapy. Buying the most basic items -- food, toilet paper, laundry soap, socks -- could have proved difficult.
"Where do you go? You don't know where to go," Ms. Oswalt said. "It's just a miracle that someone can help me."
Ms. Oswalt's youngest child, 28-year-old Mary Blair of Holland, got information about Nightingale's Harvest. Now Ms. Oswalt is one of 118 people with cancer from northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan being helped with such necessities as they face treatment, medical bills, and inability to work.
The seed for Nightingale's Harvest germinated when Toledoan Lisa Kronbach-Eisenbach's friend Kim Channer of Sylvania was given a diagnosis of colon cancer in November, 2010. With her husband's support, Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach quit her nursing job to take Mrs. Channer to doctors' appointments and chemotherapy treatments.
"It's always been my wish to care for people," said Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach, who has two adult children. "All I can tell you is it smacked me in the face, and I was driven."
At first, Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach did extreme couponing for both families. The Channers have four children, and the youngest, 9-year-old Logan, is Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach's godson.
Mary Blair, left, hugs her mother Erma Oswalt, right, who has cancer, before getting food at Nightingale's Harvest, which is a food bank that helps cancer patients and their families.
While they went to doctors' appointments and chemotherapy, Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach noticed other cancer patients talking about how they could not afford to buy the nutritional food they were advised to eat. Laundry soap, tissues, and toilet paper are other costly needs, she said.
Nightingale's Harvest initially was housed in Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach's basement. But she told the council president at St. James Lutheran Church in Sylvania, where Mrs. Channer is a member, about the budding operation.
The church's council accepted the nonprofit organization, which since June has used the kitchen to store groceries. Nightingale's Harvest uses another room for other items, and it is expanding into clothing.
"We go along with anything that's good," said Mariam Wuwert, president of St. James's church council.
In hopes of getting $10,000 to renovate space at the church, Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach is one of nine semifinalists in a Life Goes Strong room makeover contest. People can vote for the project by going to home.lifegoesstrong.com/roommakeover/vote-for-a-winner until Jan. 4, when the field will be narrowed to three contestants.
Fund-raising is ongoing for the nonprofit group, which hopes to start applying for grants.
The Meijer store at 1500 E. Alexis Rd. selected Nightingale's Harvest as beneficiary of its Simply Give campaign, in which shoppers can buy $10 gift cards for the nonprofit group through Jan. 7 and the company will make donations too. Other fund-raisers and food drives are lined up for next year.
Lisa Kronbach-Eisenbach, center, director of Nightingale's Harvest, speaks to volunteer staff members Lyntoya Carson, foreground, and Raechel Walker while her husband, Kenny Eisenbach, stands by.
Nightingale's Harvest now has about 30 volunteers, and items are delivered to cancer patients, or they can come to the pantry at scheduled times to select items they need. Participants also are taught how to do extreme couponing and otherwise care for themselves.
Kenny Eisenbach, Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach's husband, has been a help from the start. He recalled the first time he hit an extreme couponing bonanza with pasta on sale at Meijer that wound up being free.
"That was the first, the pasta," the home health nurse recalled. "I had a whole cart full."
The hope is to spread the Nightingale's Harvest concept through Ohio and Michigan through chapters, followed by elsewhere nationwide, Mrs. Kronbach-Eisenbach said. Eventually, the organization would like to do a Meals On Wheels-type program for cancer patients, she said.
More information about Nightingale's Harvest is available at 419-725-1190.
Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6087.
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