Mother Theresa was quoted as saying “None of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful.” One young woman who is doing her part working toward something wonderful is 12-year Philadelphia Police veteran and Community Relations Officer Vanessa Washington. Working alongside Legacy of Hope as part of its Emergency Patient Support Network, Officer Washington has made a tremendous impact by delivering much-needed groceries to the homes of local cancer patients and their families.
An often overlooked but critical issue of cancer is the financial toxicity the disease imposes on patients and families. All too often, cancer patients go hungry because of financial distress brought on by lost jobs, lost hours and wages, and the insurmountable cost of treating the disease. Legacy of Hope created the Emergency Patient Support Network in partnership with the Philadelphia Police Department, Brown’s Super Stores, Philadelphia hospitals, and the United Way, to effectively eliminate hunger among Philadelphia’s cancer patients. Patients at considerable risk of going hungry are identified by oncology social workers from every major hospital in Philadelphia, and the Emergency Patient Support Network jumps into action. Every Tuesday morning, Philadelphia Police officers pick up healthy groceries purchased by Legacy of Hope from three different grocery stores and deliver them to the doors of 15-20 cancer patients and families.
“I enjoy being able to use my uniform to make a positive impact on anyone I encounter during my tour of duty,” Officer Washington stated, a beaming smile coming through loud and clear during our telephone interview. “Many times the uniform is viewed in a negative light; I use this to change the narrative one person at a time, no matter how long it takes.” Officer Washington recalled the experience of knocking on doors and watching cancer patients glow with excitement to see the groceries lined up on their front steps. “It's truly heartwarming, it's the best feeling ever, when we get out of the car with groceries and they answer the door...you think they may be ill, not feeling well, they may not be in good spirits. Wrong. Their faces light up!”
Officer Washington is a reminder that the Philadelphia Police Department puts the community first. In her role as Community Relations Officer, she does everything in her power to serve the families of the 19th District in any capacity, which now includes delivering nutrition to the doorsteps of those who would otherwise go hungry. Excited to see what the future holds, Officer Washington already points out the growth of reach Legacy of Hope has developed over the past year thanks to its relationship with the police and increased funding since the launch of the Legacy of Hope Membership Program. “I see us continuing to work together, continuing to use our contacts together, growing a network so we can branch out further. It’s about growing. It’s amazing.”
“I see us continuing to work together, continuing to use our contacts together, growing a network so we can branch out further. It’s about growing. It’s amazing.”
While the impact of the Emergency Patient Support Network among Philadelphia’s most financially distressed cancer patients has been remarkable, the impact of providing this assistance has been mutually beneficial to those involved in delivering it. Officer Washington commented, “The PPD’s partnership with Legacy of Hope not only gives officers a chance to
deliver groceries to cancer patients, it gives us a chance to deliver hope, happiness, and joy, which are lasting impressions. It also gives officers an opportunity to step into a different role, if only for a few hours. Our days are often filled with negativity and uncertainty. When we’re delivering groceries, it puts us at ease. It’s nice to know exactly what we’re going into. Something positive. We need that.”
Legacy of Hope’s Emergency Patient Support Network is overjoyed to report the number of Philadelphia cancer patients receiving delivered groceries and other support has just surpassed 1,000. This unparalleled assistance would not be possible without the 78 Phila police officers, including Officer Washington, who have participated in grocery deliveries, the ironclad partnerships Legacy of Hope has developed, and the generosity of our Legacy members and other donors. Vice President of Legacy of Hope Gina Mancuso states, “Because of our incredible partnerships, the Emergency Patient Support Network has grown into an efficient system with many moving parts yet, despite the complexity of it all, we remain personally connected to each social worker, police officer, grocer, and volunteer.” Gina also pointed out, “Serving 1,000 patients is an incredible milestone, but this is just the beginning.” Together, we are on track to completely eliminate hunger among Philadelphia cancer patients.