Support cohort Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2007

Eileen Saffran knows that cancer treatment entails more than just chemotherapy and radiation. Oftentimes, it’s the personal network of family and friends that provide the necessary support for recovery.

This concept is by no means new. Saffran understood it years ago, when her work as a clinical social worker revealed the lack of a community-based organization serving the needs of cancer patients and their families in Northeast Ohio.

To rectify this void, she and a group of like-minded individuals sought out professional council, visiting cancer support centers throughout the country to seek advice and to study best practices.

With this newfound knowledge and an entrepreneurial spirit, Saffran founded The Gathering Place, a caring community that supports, educates and empowers individuals and families touched by cancer.

The Gathering Place, located in Beachwood, offers everything from art therapy to a complimentary medical bill consultation to cancer-specific support groups to yoga and tai chi movement classes. The breadth of services offered is no more impressive than their individual prices — all of which are free.

Saffran complements traditional fund-raising techniques with more ambitious entrepreneurial projects to offset costs. The TGP Collections shop, for example, sells gently used furniture, jewelry and antiques. “Lemonade Recipes,” a collection of inspirational anecdotes written by a TGP volunteer, is also sold for suggested donations.

Saffran, who serves as executive director, maintains a detail-oriented management style to efficiently and effectively oversee the organization’s many services and programs. For meetings — which always start and end on time — agenda items are designated with set time allotments to ensure that everything gets covered.

This attention to detail also proves useful when allocating manpower for various tasks. In addition to a regular staff of 14, Saffran employs the use of more than 350 volunteers who offer approximately 11,000 hours of service each year.

Since opening in January 2000, The Gathering Place has helped more than 14,000 individuals and family members manage the stress that comes with a cancer diagnosis. With plans for a Westlake location opening by the end of next year, that personal network of support looks to spread a whole lot further.

HOW TO REACH: The Gathering Place, (216) 595-9546 or www.touchedbycancer.org