Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We need jewelry

Here is something that is actually sort of related to my life as a family doc. Below is a plea from one of my partners. She tells the whole story better than I can so I will just cut and paste her plea and please feel free to pass it on to others.

It all started with a fateful call from the nursing home. "We need you to come take care of Ernie's jewelry!" Despite being more than 40 years my senior, Ernie was a great friend, and we'd both been dismayed when she had to move from assisted living into the nursing home. She'd been there a while, with me as her physician, and this was a new development.

Ernie had traveled extensively, loved beauty and being surrounded with beautiful things. When she moved to Heritage Acres she took an oriental trunk with her. It was reported to be filled with gold and jewels (her words), but I'd never been privy to the contents. Now her body was failing and, with decreased oxygen to her brain, her thought processes had changed. Rather than remaining her secretive stubborn self, she was talking to everyone about the contents of her magic box, and the nursing home administrator was becoming concerned about the liability of the facility. So Natasha (her lawyer), Ernie, and I spent some incredible hours cataloging her treasures. There were small bars of solid gold, gold nuggets from a mine, yogo sapphires, and a treasure trove of costume jewelry that we all wanted to play with. When Ernie died a few days later, all her beauties disappeared with her daughter, never to be seen again. We all hope that at one time or another her daughter had heard the stories that made Ernie's eyes shine with delight over a pair of gaudy earrings, made her laugh with joy over a simple bracelet, and made her cry over her infirmities that made her unable to dance around in her finery.

Soon thereafter my Cousin Tommy's wife Donna died of metastatic breast cancer. It hadn't been long after her "5 year cancer free" milestone was reached that the tumors recurred rapidly, stealing her health and her joy and their hope.

At about the same time my recycling efforts were being thwarted because I couldn't find any place locally to recycle glass or plastic.

Our clinic had been involved with the Relay for Life portion of the American Cancer Society for years and had had bake sales at the IGA (grocery store), rummage sales at the Clinic, raffles, etc. I was struggling to find a way to raise money without having to sit at a table at the grocery store or to haul out white elephants into the clinic parking lot (and to convince someone that they really needed to buy them). I thought of Donna, of Ernie, of all the people in Big Horn County who were broke but loved beautiful things - and said to myself “recycled jewelry will work!"

Since then we have had 5 "New to You" jewelry sales and have raised more than $24,000 for the ACS. Most of our sales are 50 cents or a dollar, since most donations are "outdated costume jewelry" that just isn't the thing any more. But we've been amazed by the overwhelming generosity of people who can't afford a monetary donation but can clean out their jewelry box or their junk drawer or their deceased great aunt's boxes. One woman dropped off a 5 gallon bucket of earrings (all loose) that weighted over 32 pounds and contained clip-on plastic skateboard earrings and glow in the dark skeleton earrings and phenomenally beautiful rhinestone earrings by Weiss. Another unidentified woman dropped off a sandwich bag that contained 6 genuine diamond rings. A welfare patient removed his necklace because it was the only jewelry the family had and he wanted to contribute. We've had donations of jewelry made of gold, silver, garnet, crystal, agate, plastic, wood; we've had things made of feathers and beads and uranium that glows in the dark; earrings that have been beaded and tatted and crocheted and carved from antlers...

Our Hardin Clinic Relay for Life team has requested donations form everyone we can think of, including friends, family, patients, pharmaceutical reps, our surrounding clinics/hospitals. We've visited all the local (within 50 miles) pawn shops and jewelry stores and thrift stores looking for donations - including boxes or bags to put jewelry in, "necks" to display necklaces on, advertising, as well as things to sell including jewelry, jewelry boxes, watches, etc.. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, except for a few instances (like the diamond merchant who couldn't think of any way he could help us, because then he'd have to help anyone that stopped by his office...). We’ve been fortunate that the local media, including the Original Briefs, the Big Horn County News, and the Billings Gazette, as well as several local radio stations, have been willing to give us free advertising. The Goldsmith Gallery in Billings has really supported our efforts, donating a tourmaline cross, a diamond for a ring that wasn't complete, and emerald earrings and a necklace.

Unfortunately, the people in our area of Eastern Montana have exhausted the supply of jewelry that they can part with, and we have to look further afield. We thought that if we could get a small mention in newspapers across the United States, we might be able to reach our goal ($100,000!); we can sell it if we can get it! We're getting really good at repairing jewelry, cleaning and polishing, and creative uses. Clip-on earrings and screw-in earrings can be used as pins, on chains as necklaces, as ornaments on wineglasses or hairclips or purses...You can hang bracelets on your towel racks or doorknobs or on your gearshift of your car. We can find a new home for almost any jewelry. Something one person hates may be someone else's hearts desire.

So we are hoping to send this to people across the country, believing that people will be willing to open up their hearts, and their jewelry boxes, for an incredibly good cause. 100% of our proceeds go directly to the American Cancer Society! I'm hoping to send this plea out as an email; you can't believe what I've spent on stamps so far!!! Unfortunately, I don't know where to send it.

If you, or your friends or anyone else would like to donate something, it can be sent to the Hardin Clinic Relay for Life team at the Hardin Clinic, 16 N. Miles, Hardin, Montana 59034. We are a clinic with 5 providers, 6 nurses, 6 business office people, and one custodian; we live in a town of about 2500 people. We have all been very involved in the fundraising efforts. Actually, by now almost everyone in town has been involved in one way or another - donating jewelry, providing advertising or space to have our sales, working at the sales, etc. Our next sale is planned for the end of June if we can find enough to sell. Please give us a thought next time you are cleaning the house, getting dressed up to go out, or trying to streamline your possessions.

My brother has always said "If you are going to think, think big". We would like to expand out of our little area. We would be thrilled if there were some way to get donations from each county in Montana, or better yet, from every state in our great country. So far we've raised almost $1000 per person in Hardin; if we could get each person who reads this to ask their mother and their brother and their great aunt to put a ring or a pair of earrings or a necklace into an envelope and mail it to the Hardin Clinic we could really raise a lot of money for the American Cancer Society! We'd really appreciate the help, wherever we could get it. It is definitely a win-win situation!

Thanks so much! Please email this to all your friends, acquaintances, jewelry lovers, rich people who are feeling generous, etc!!!

1 comment:

  1. Very inspiring! I'll definitely send an envelope full of jewelry to the clinic. What a fun idea!