October is filled with scary things, however, nothing is more scary to some families than facing cancer, especially for single mother and Longmont resident Wesley Pickering.
Pickering was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer several years ago. After her diagnosis she struggled to make ends meet for herself and her two children.
Cindy Noble, a good friend of Pickering and board member of Roberta’s Legacy referred Pickering to the organization for help.
The nonprofit’s mission is “to walk beside breast cancer patients and their families who need financial and emotional support until they are back on their feet. To enhance the quality of life for the patients and their families. To help the patients and their families thrive, not just survive,” according to its website.
Roberta’s Legacy was formed after founder Harry Lozinski lost his wife, Roberta, to breast cancer in December 2015. He and his family in September 2017 decided to honor her memory by creating a Longmont-focused nonprofit that not only helps breast cancer patients but also supports their families.
Roberta Lozinski was active in the breast cancer community, having served on the board of Pink Ribbon Survivors Network — a virtual nonprofit that helps physicians and breast cancer survivors find information on recovery.
Friends and family of Roberta Lozinski donated some funds at her memorial service. Later, Harry Lozinski and his family used the money to help a breast cancer patient with four children who found herself without support, a job or insurance. The money allowed the woman to pay her bills and grocery shop for the first time in a month, Lozinski said.
Since he also has four children, Lozninksi said he was touched by the woman’s story and felt starting the nonprofit to help others was the best way he could honor the memory of his wife.
“We walk beside (women with breast cancer) until they are back on their feet,” he said. “We build relationships with these families, we don’t just hand them a check.”
To date, Roberta’s Legacy has provided more than $32,000 in financial support to 67 breast cancer patients and their families, according to the website.
After undergoing brain surgery, Pickering was unable to work. She worried she would not be able to make rent for the few months she recovered. Roberta’s Legacy jumped in and provided her with the money she needed for rent and provided meals and other supports, such as house cleaning, while she recovered.
“It is almost something that is kinda hard to put into words because it is a huge impact. You hear about people all the time losing their homes, losing their cars, not being able to feed their families or pay their bills when they have cancer because having cancer is so expensive. There are times when you can’t work, you can’t make any money. I would have been homeless if they hadn’t paid my rent when I went through brain surgery,” Pickering said.
Roberta’s Legacy doesn’t just provide the basics for people to live, such as rent and food assistance, it also looks after the patients by providing services that go above and beyond, such as massages to relieve stress.
“It makes doing treatment bearable. I get really tired really easily and I get a lot of pain … I don’t feel like I have that undue stress of having to go home and clean. I know I don’t have to carry that stress knowing that Roberta’s Legacy is just a phone call away. It’s hard to put into words the relief you get when you don’t have all those external stressors,” Pickering said.
Lozinski and his children not only strive to help women and their families during treatment but they help families grieve.
“We are there to be a support system. It has been a way for us to emulate Roberta. Her favorite words were ‘faith, hope and love,’” Lozinski said.
Like all other nonprofit organizations, COVID-19 has impacted Roberta’s Legacy by forcing it to be creative with fundraising. In August it held an online birthday drive to celebrate what would have been Roberta Lozinski’s 58th birthday. People were asked to donate $58.
Longmont resident and owner of Longmont Shuttle, Simon Chen reached out to the nonprofit to help. "It is important to us to help our community. We love what Roberta's Legacy is doing and we want to offer their clients free shuttle rides. In support of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we are also donating $250 a month for a year to Roberta's Legacy," Chen said.
But more importantly to Lozinski, the pandemic has created hardship in connecting with cancer patients who are usually referred by oncologists. Things are starting to return to normal, said Lozinski, who is hopeful to have 20 to 25 families registered to receive help by the end of the year.
“Obviously funding is a big thing, but awareness is big for me. We have people on the board who are more worried about the funding, but I am more worried about the awareness and helping those who are out there,” he said.
Pickering said, “There are not a lot of foundations out there that are so wonderful that do all of those really great things. It is an amazing organization and I honestly wish that every (patient with any type) cancer , in every town, had (an organization like this). It is really life-changing.”