‘Community Chest’ still going strong here

Sam Odrowski

The Fort Frances Community Chest has been helping local families cover medical expenses for more than 20 years.
The not-for-profit group officially launched in 2000 when it partnered with the Town of Fort Frances.
Since then, it has provided financial assistance to hundreds of families facing medical emergencies from Rainy River to Mine Centre.
“Medical emergencies would be a premature baby or women pregnant with complications, cancer patients, people with heart problems, and things like that,” said Joelle Blanc Paull, a member of the Fort Frances Community Chest.
“We’ve rarely denied anybody in 25 years,” she noted. “I don’t know that we ever have.”
Anyone facing a financial crisis due to a medical emergency is encouraged to call the Fort Frances Community Chest and ask for some assistance.
“We don’t quiz them too much,” said fellow Community Chest member Linda Blanc.
“It’s just for if you’re in trouble and need help, we’re more than willing to help you,” she explained.
Still, the “Chest” should be viewed as a last option when trying to find financial support during a medical crisis.
“It’s an honesty thing,” said Blanc Paull. “When people ask you for help, you hope they have gone to every other possible avenue first.
“We don’t help if another agency should be doing it,” she stressed.
“We’re really supposed to be a last resort.”
When it comes to handing out the money, Blanc Paull said there are only two rules: “Say please and [say] thank you.”
While the Community Chest doesn’t ask for the money back, those who have been recipients often are very adamant about giving back in some way.
“I always say when we help a family it comes back tenfold later,” fellow Community Chest member Linda Hamilton noted.
“It does,” Blanc agreed. “Even though we don’t ask people to pay us back, most people do.”
Through charitable donations from business, anonymous donations from the community, and honorariums, the Community Chest has been able to continue assisting those in need.
“Our bank account has stayed in a great position because of people giving small quantities of money,” said Blanc.
She noted that with this money, their organization has been able to have a positive impact on local residents.
“We have helped a lot of people in the community,” Blanc lauded. “And we’re still helping them as much as we can.”
In fact, the Community Chest currently is helping a married couple cover the financial stresses of having a premature baby in Thunder Bay.
“The husband’s driving back and forth for work and needs a place to stay when he get’s there on the weekends,” noted Hamilton.
“This will be ongoing until the baby’s born, and hopefully baby is born healthy and doesn’t have to stay in the hospital longer than the average amount of time afterward.”
When women face pregnancy complications, Hamilton said they usually are in the hospital for a good eight-nine weeks prior to their due date.
The medical infrastructure required to treat complications around a pregnancy isn’t available here and the costs of staying out-of-town for several weeks can be devastating.
The town also really has helped to facilitate all of the Community Chest’s operations so the organization has zero overhead, which ensures all the money goes to families in need.
“Even the town has graciously taken this on,” Blanc enthused. “They write all of our cheques for us, they do all of our tax receipts, and everything’s audited every year so it’s good.
“There’s no way we could do it if they didn’t help us.”
Another great aspect of the Community Chest is its ability to get families the money they need, without delay, during a medical crisis.
“If you were to phone this morning, we like a little lead time,” Hamilton conceded. “But in an emergency, we could get them their money for the afternoon.
“In a couple of hours even.”
Anyone in need of the Community Chest’s services is asked to call Blanc at 274-8782, Blanc Paull at 274-7008, or Hamilton at 274-0385.