This post is part of #GivingTuesday's #WomenWhoGive series, which celebrates women who are making a difference in their communities.
Patricia Ann McCoy, Co-Founder, WAWELA Cancer Support
What inspired you to start giving?
I flew home to California in the winter of 2002 to be my sister side as she was battling stage 4 breast cancer. As I sat by her bedside, she slowly set up in her bed, put on her glasses and asked if I could pass her checkbook to her. I watched with great intent to see what she was planning to do; she reached over to her other side and picked up two bills. One was her car note and the other her utility bill. Afterward, she picks up the phone to call her bank, and after she hung up the phone I asked her what she doing, she looked over her eyeglasses and stated: " just because I'm ill doesn't mean the bills are going to stop coming in. "When I asked her about the call to the bank, she told me she was checking her account balance to see which one of the two bills she would have enough money to pay on. At that moment the lights came on, as I thought to myself, "this is what surviving cancer looks like." I recall on that very day, reassuring my sister that she will never have to worry about how her bills were going to be paid and that was a promise!
A couple of months later, in February 2003, my sister surrendered her battle with cancer, I was given a precious Bible I had given her. As I sat there thumbing through the pages, a piece of paper fell out. It was dated April 2001. I carefully read each sentence on the paper. It was a vision that my sister, the Founder of WAWELA, had for a support group that would provide spiritual and financial support to individuals suffering from cancer. The same month that she passed away, I flew back home to Texas I registered the name of her organization WAWELA which means "All is Well." Three years later WAWELA became an official 501(c)3 organization and has been in full operation for 15 years. WAWELA Cancer Support offers financial assistance to cancer patients who are undergoing treatment and in need of immediate financial assistance for things like utilities, transportation/gas voucher, emergency food, and prescription copays.
Earlier in my life, both of my parents passed away from cancer - my mother ovarian and my father breast cancer. Since the passing of my sibling and my parents, I lost my spouse to pancreatic cancer, another sister to breast cancer, and in 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It seems like a very grim life but each one of them has been a great inspiration in my life which is why I keep moving forward, I am proud to say that I have beaten the odds and am now Cancer Free!
What does giving mean to you?
Giving means the world to me, just knowing that one act of kindness or generosity can change a person life is worth all the giving in the world.
Why do you continue to give your time, talents, money, or more to your community?
I have a natural passion for helping others, my life struggles and hardships have been stepping stones for me to keep giving. I may not understand every situation but I can relate to what it feels like to lose loved ones to a chronic illness such as cancer. If my time, talents and money mean there's a great chance of eradicating cancer and saving our communities - I'm all in. In my life, it's ALL OR NOTHING.
What would you tell others who are looking to start giving back? Share a piece of advice will help them get started.
I would tell them there's more to just donating. Giving back means volunteering your time, your skills, and abilities for the betterment of local communities and abroad. There is always a charity in need of their service. I would advise them to reach out to local charities or go online and signup for volunteer work, contact hospitals, boys and girls homes, transitional homes etc. ask how can they get involved.
Please share a favorite moment or story from when you volunteered or donated to an organization.
I participated in an event at a community center as a vendor for a Christmas Charity Toy Drive. Instead of selling my products, I ended up donating all of them. As I was setting up my table I was bombarded by a group of children asking for goodies and drinks before I could get my table completely set up and these children seemed to keep multiplying throughout the day. Some were so eager and offered to assist me with setting up my table, and were just so willing to do anything to help. What was special about this moment, was what I didn't know that the children I was serving were dropped off at the center daily, Monday - Saturday, and often went without food. The parents would drop them off early in the morning and would not pick them up until well after-hours.
After the event was over and my table and products were packed it was roughly around 8:30 in the evening it was pretty dark and these same children were still there. As I exited the building, I was approached by the attendant, she apologized for the children's behavior and expressed how bad she felt because she witnesses these same children day in and day out going without food. Her concern was they were keeping me from selling my products, I graciously told her "no I'm just happy I was able to be of service". A photo of me with one of the children I recruited to help me remains on my Facebook to remind me of my why.