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2018 Top-Rated Nonprofit

A Shelter for Cancer Families (ASCF)

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Cancer, Community Foundations, Homeless & Housing, Housing & Shelter, Philanthropy, Philanthropy, Charity & Voluntarism Promotion

Mission: A Shelter for Cancer Families (ASCF) provides tangible support & housing creating a sanctuary where cancer families can heal together. In addition to the temporary housing we offer to out-of-town cancer families, ASCF also provides tangible support in the form of navigation services, visits & holiday celebrations to families affected by cancer in Houston.

Results: ASCF provides more than 1800 nights of free housing to cancer patients and their families as well as navigation and other tangible support services to these and other families in the Houston area EVERY YEAR.

Target demographics: provide free tangible support in the Texas Medical Center to families affected by cancer based on their needs, regardless of age, cancer type, treatment status or income

Direct beneficiaries per year: Provide more than 1800 nights of free housing to out of town patients and families seeking cancer care in Houston.

Geographic areas served: Houston, Texas

Programs: Temporary Housing for out-of-town Cancer Families & Navigation Services for all Families affected by Cancer in the Houston area. In doing so, ASCF has created a sanctuary where cancer families can heal together.

Community Stories

72 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

1

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

A Shelter for Cancer Families is a one-of-a kind foundation. As a physician in the Texas Medical Center, I have referred patients who are traveling from out-of-state to receive treatment for their cancers. It is a stressful time for them. ASCF offers a families a home away from home- a "shelter"- that does not look or feel like another hospital or hotel room. Jen and Missy and the staff are extremely personable, helpful, and will go out of their way to accommodate our patients. I can't say enough good things about the services that ASCF provides to guide and support our cancer families. Their model of care is unique and effective. Kudos to ASCF!

3

Client Served

Rating: 5

In the course of just 2 days our lives were turned upside down when my 4 year old grandson, Thomas, was diagnosed with Medulloblastoma. The treatment plan included photon radiation and chemo. My daughter and son-in-law did some in-depth research and discovered the benefits of Proton therapy. So, they decided to leave Colorado and head to Houston for an eight-week regiment of Proton therapy. What a confusing time! It was like stepping off a cliff and hoping that you'd learn to fly asap.

Of course, finding housing in Houston was an immediate need and I began to contact apartment complexes and charity organizations. We were incredibly grateful and relieved when Jen responded within just a few hours and we ended up moving into our apartment at the Equinox the next day! We were absolutely stunned when we walked in the door... the apartment was beautiful and so much more than we could have ever imagined. It is an amazingly warm and therapeutic space and we immediately felt at home. The Shelter for Cancer Families organization had thought of everything from "starter food" to games to books to artwork and more. On February 14 after an especially grueling day at the hospitals, we arrived home to a Valentine's day celebration! The apartment was decorated for the holiday and there were cards from area children, flowers, plates/napkins, and the most gorgeous cake that we had ever seen! The whole experience left us in tears.

Tomorrow is Thomas's final Proton Treatment that will include the ceremonial ringing-of-the-Gong, which is a lovely tradition at the Proton Center. And guess who is going to be there to help us celebrate?? yep, Jen and a crew of her volunteers! What an incredibly thoughtful way to honor Thomas!

In a couple of days we will begin the long journe back to Colorado. And, we will be leaving Houston a little bit wiser and stronger for what is still to come. We can't thank Jen and the Shelter for Cancer Families enough for caring for us during this stressful time. They absolutely have helped to give us the wings that we'll need for the next part of our journey. Thank you from the bottom of hearts!!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Just a few words of thanks to you (Jen Berko) and A Shelter for Cancer Families for the beautiful and upscale apartment you provided for us during our crucial time of need. It is absolutely beautiful, much more than we imagined or expected!
The living area is spacious and comfortable. We leave the blinds open all day just to look over the beautiful pool. Reminds me of a resort hotel! Hopefully, we’ll get to use it in April. I’m enjoying the convenient office area fitted for me. And, although I never leave home without my Holy Bible and inspirational books, I find there is a great selection of encouraging literature right at the tip of my hands! Albert takes his “blanket” to hospital, too. Keeps him warm all day!
It gives me pleasure to look over the great artwork of children who have stayed here before us. The dining room area is enjoyed with every meal. Didn’t want to scratch the table more, so I placed a tablecloth over it. That’s our favorite meeting place.
The kitchen area is absolutely gorgeous! I’m enjoying preparing meals for Albert, as he can’t seem to develop a taste for fast food, yet. And, I’m making him soft foods that he can swallow without too much pain. The fridge is perfect size and I bought enough food for 2 months only. Thanks to the foods left in the fridge and pantry, we don’t have to buy much.
So glad to have a washer and dryer! Although, I didn’t mind, other lodging places have laundry rooms outside of apartment for the use of all residents. We often wait in line to do our laundry. It’s so convenient here! And, thank you for soaps and softeners provided. We usually bring our own linens, towels and sheets, so others can enjoy the ones you provide.
Albert is enjoying the beautiful bedroom. I sleep on the couch wherever we go, so as not to disturb his sleep. I check on him often to make sure he’s still breathing, as that becomes a problem with throat cancer. And, the closets are spacious enough for all our garments and suitcases. We decided not to unpack everything. Our stay is so short wherever we go. So, we’re kind of living out of our suitcases. We’re just glad to have such a great place to stay.
I just started using the fitness center this week. We’d been so busy with treatments and other medical appointments. His last treatment is Saturday. At my age, I can’t do too much exercising. I’ve had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders, knee cartilage surgery on both knees and surgery for a broken arm. So, I can’t use treadmill, anymore. But, I can use the stationery bike for about an hour daily. I get to relax from all the stress, exercise to help my joints and muscles, and pray over all the worry, fears and concerns. I feel humbled and so richly blessed! The shower and bathroom are so appealing! Relaxing & enjoyable! Enjoying all the toiletries provided.
Covered parking is great! Albert walks for exercise. But, he takes the complex map to find his way back. It’s an absolute maze! We laugh about it all the time. He carries his phone just in case he gets lost. I do too. Thank you for all your help and support! And, making our stay in Houston a lot more pleasant.
But, your help didn’t start there. It began with our application to ASFC. Your responded with an offer to serve as a navigator for us. Being new to cancer treatment, we didn’t know how navigation worked. Jen, you approached us in a special kind of way that made us trust and feel comfortable with you. It was as though we had just found a great new friend! Your explanation of how navigation works seemed most appropriate for us. First, you wanted to know all about our journey with cancer, the diagnosis, and treatment plan. With this information in hand, you became a participant in our meetings with all our doctors. You listened intently and took great notes. With your expertise, you asked the proper questions. Sometimes, questions that we had overlooked or not even thought of! You were assertive but respectful to the medical staff at all times. I was delighted to hear the fast tapping of your fingers on the keyboard. I knew you were a highly skilled professional! I was overwhelmed with the final transcription and reports you sent me by email. Your notes were literally verbatim! And, I shared them with my daughters who are out of town. Your reports gave them a better understanding of the medical procedures and treatment plan. They couldn’t be thankful enough! I kept them for record keeping. I felt no need for my personal tape recorder, anymore! Your note taking was better! ASFC provides a service that is absolutely necessary to cancer patients and their families. It helps make the whole tragic process just a little easier. I highly recommend navigation to everyone!
God bless every one of you at ASFC for your outstanding work and compassion. I pray that your organization will receive 100-fold blessings, financial support and funding to continue to help other cancer patients and their families. Thank you for a great job! From our hearts to yours with love – Janie & Albert Montez

5

Client Served

Rating: 5

ASCF has been a Godsend for my husband and me. My husband was diagnosed with myelofibrosis and needed a bone marrow transplant. We live more than 200 miles from Houston. We desperately needed to find a place to stay as his treatment required staying in Houston and close to MDA for more than 4 months. We contacted ASCF through the internet and received a quick response from Jennifer. She is a gift! We could not have found a better organization to help put our minds at ease at such a difficult time. ASCF has helped us in so many ways. Their heartfelt concern, love and assistance has been never ending and we will always be grateful to them. This is truly an outstanding organization! We are blessed to have their help and to be touched by so many loving souls.

2 Shannon 'Harper' B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I was given the opportunity to connect a friend’s family to ASFCF when they were headed into MD Anderson for what they thought would be treatment for a tumor in their 2yr old that had not responded to treatment out of town where they live. I called Jen and she stepped into action. This is the last text I received from the friend. Thank you all!!

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was diagnose with Aggressive Fibromatosis in my abdomen in 2016. I was seeing a doctor in our home state of South Carolina, that wasn't treating my cancer the way that the research was saying it should be treated. I had a friend who's son was seeing an oncologist at Texas Children's Hospital at the time, so I reached out to her. After a nice talk, she got me in touch with Missy (CEO and Founder of ASCF). After sharing my concerns and my cancer information with her, she got in touch with a friend and found me a doctor, without me even having to worry about it. Once I had set up my appointments, I realized we would be driving a thousand miles away to see a Sarcoma Oncologist and we would need to stay for a week. Missy helped me fill out the paperwork and accepted me, my husband, our daughters, and my grandmother to stay in one of the foundations apartments. After our long drive, we arrived at the apartment and it was beautiful! Nothing big or extravagant, but perfect for our family to stay in for the week. We had plenty of room for the five of us. Missy was amazing and made herself available for any questions or help that we needed. She told us where to find the best brisket and where the nearest stores were. We have been blessed to get to know her and Jen, now. We love them like our own family and have been so blessed to have them in our lives. We are so blessed to have such amazing people and wonderful foundation help us during this tough time. It has been almost two years (coming up this February) and we still can't thank them enough for all they do for us. We have a stay coming up in March and as always, we look forward to seeing them and staying in the apartment. They truly are a blessing to the cancer community! We love them and appreciate all their hard work and support that they have done for us to be able to stay through the foundation.

2 Deonna Perry G.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I don't even know where to begin . . . .My daughter-in-law of three years was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer that had taken us two years to diagnose. We/They headed to MD Anderson as fast as we could. She began treatments every other week so that meant they were commuting 7 hours every other week and staying 3-4 days. My husband and I were able to help with hotel bills, but we could see that we would eventually need to find a place for them to stay on a more permanent basis. That time came much sooner than we thought. At our last visit, they said she would need to be there every week because the additional treatment they were going to administer, would be weekly and would make her very ill.

Through nothing other than answered prayer, friends came forward and told us about this incredible organization. I have volunteered for many organizations and actually worked at two non-profits in my city (Abilene, Texas) but I have never seen anything like this. The staff is so dedicated and so unbelievably kind. Missy and Jen along with a board member from ASCF came to our rescue, took our numerous calls and emails with a welcoming, warmth that I have never experienced anywhere else.

My "kids" are there now. (late 30's) They said the apartment is so nice and truly feels like a home. It is clean but not sterile. We couldn't have asked for more and as I said before, we thank God for these wonderful people everyday.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

ASCF gave us that sense of feeling at home; which is essential during difficult times. The apartment was clean, comfortable and the welcome bag was such a thoughtful gift.
We unexpectedly had to stay longer than anticipated, and ASCF (specifically Jen) was so amazing in working it out for us to stay longer. Her kindness and understanding meant a lot to us. Traveling to Houston had a significant financial impact on our family, so being able to not worry about housing was a HUGE relief! Thank you ASCF for making our difficult stay easier.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I had to travel to Houston for medical care, which was an unfamiliar big city to me. Besides the usual stress of finding the way around a bustling city, I had to deal with the fact that I was sick. In a time like that, a person desires comfort of things like home as well as assistance about the community. ASCF provided all of this to me and was beyond accommodating. The apartment was well decorated and stocked with some “extras” including essentials I thought I would have to go to the store to buy. Everything was clean and decorated with personal touches. Parking was very easy and not far. When I needed to communicate some details with ASCF, they (Jen) were very easy to reach. Thank you so much for providing myself and my caretaker with a place to stay while we visited MD Anderson. The heartfelt generousity of this organization will never be forgotten by myself and my family. I hope ASCF is able to continue serving those who need this service.

2

Advisor

Rating: 5

A Shelter for Cancer Families is one of a kind. No other foundation offers complimentary housing, complimentary navigation (note taking at doctor appointments), and complimentary celebrations for cancer families. I was first drawn into the foundation as a volunteer and later as the manager of cancer families and media relations.
I began volunteering for ASCF on a regular basis when I saw that this foundation provided complimentary housing in the Texas Medical Center. My mother-in-law battled cancer and refused to leave her home in Long Island, New York to travel to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The trip was just too much for her while she was sick. It was devastating to our family. When she passed away our family was left with "what if's". If a foundation like ASCF had provided complimentary housing to our family, who knows what kind of treatment she would have had access to. In her honor I serve A Shelter for Cancer Families.
After volunteering for ASCF for several years, I was asked to join the foundation full time. I truly believe I was meant for this service. Every single day I honor my mother-in-law by helping cancer families; not just patients. If my mother-in-law had the services we provide she would have had a place to stay with her family, access to the very best care, loving volunteers to celebrate the holidays with her, a navigator to take notes so that she could easily share her treatment journey with her family, and most of all she would have had tangible and meaningful support during her darkest times. Every person deserves dignity and support while battling cancer. A Shelter for Cancer Families provides just that. I am proud to serve each and every day through A Shelter for Cancer Families and I highly recommend this foundation.

Jennifer Berko
A Shelter for Cancer Families
Manager of Cancer Families & Media Relations

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

The ASCF apartment is beautiful, along with the amenities in and out of the apartment. Everything you would need to live comfortably is provided. The swimming pool/jacuzzi/lounge/ bbq area was awesome!! The gym is open 24hrs along with the rec Center with pool table, TVs, sitting area and free coffee/tea.

This non profit organization blesses families with these apartments and the families should maintain it better. In my apartment the sofas were so dirty with food and drink stains, as if they just wiped their hands on them, I couldn’t even sit on them. The dining room chairs cushions were just as bad , if not worse. Underneath the sofas and bed there was trash like it was never swept. These are messes made by the families NOT by ASCF.

Families when you are given a gift, you cherish, appreciate and take care of it, so others can do the same. I give ASCF 5 stars cause I could see the love behind their gift inspite of the irresponsibility of some families. Thank you ASCF for your gracious gift.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

When we found out that my 10 year old had relapsed with osteosarcoma wey were devastated. We had to leave our home 6 hours away to come get new treatment that required us to stay in the area. This put so much stress on Victor and our family since we knew we had to come back to living in hotels, checking in and out constantly, packing and moving our stuff from one place to another. We found out about this amazing organization ASCF and couldn't believe what I was reading. We applied a day before we left home and we received the unexpected phone call from Jennifer that she could get us into an apartment the same day. Wow!! "What a relief" is short for what we actually felt. My husband, younger son and myself were all sleeping in the same couch at the hospital because we couldn't afford a hotel. We received more than expected and Jennifer made sure we had everything we needed. She went above and beyond explaining what they are here for and how they can help us in any way possible. This place is amazing because we can actually take the shuttle and save us $12 per day in hospital parking. I am able to cook homemade food per my son's request and keep a well balanced diet instead of surviving on fast food like before. This truly is more than a blessing for our family because we can be at peace while our son receives treatment and that is a very important part in this journey. Victor is more than happy and even though he is going through intensive chemotherapy for the second time within a year, he says he loves it here and is happy to be here. We can gladly say this place is more than a home away from home. Thank you ASCF and for all who contribute to make this possible for our family and many other families in need. You have no idea how grateful we are for this organization and we hope it continues for many more decades with the help of those who donate to make this possible.

1 Jay A.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

A Shelter for Cancer Families was truly a blessing for my situation. I am very fortunate in the sense that my cancer has left me capable of taking care of myself. I don’t have the constant need for a caregiver to look after me and help me with my daily activities. Unfortunately, most of the housing available for cancer patients requires you to have a caregiver with you 24/7 in order to stay at their facilities. As I began going down the list of options on Joe’s List, my options were quickly reduced from many to very few.
I applied to the few organizations that would allow me to, but unfortunately no one had space and I was placed on waiting lists for those few groups. I would be driving nearly 1,600 miles to Houston and spending over two months away from home and I still didn’t have housing secured for my stay during treatment.
I managed to get a reduced cost hotel room through the American Cancer Society, but I only had a room on a weekly basis and had the possibility that I would have to change hotels each week. My treatments at the MD Anderson Proton Center were going to take 8 weeks, and I knew changing hotels was going to get tiring soon. They were also not able to offer the discounted rooms for the entirety of my treatments, leaving me on my own for the remaining few weeks of my schedule.
Fortunately, after two weeks of hotel life, I received a phone call from Melissa at ASCF letting me know that they had an opening and I could get into the apartment immediately. I cannot describe the amount of stress and anxiety that disappeared when I received that phone call. I was no longer burdened with having to pack up my stuff into a rental car to move every weekend. I could buy more than just a week’s worth of groceries at a time without worrying about throwing out everything in the refrigerator at the end of the week. I also had the security of a gated community with limited access to the apartments when I came back from my daily treatments. I would now be only a few minutes away from the Proton Center and no longer had to make the daily commute from Katy, Sugarland, or wherever I would end up before.
This organization takes steps to ensure the patients and their families staying in the ASCF apartments feel at home during their time in Houston. Any issues that came up with the apartment were quickly handled through Jennifer and the building management. The ASCF volunteers sacrifice their own time to help their guests celebrate the major holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even though I was by myself in the apartment, I never felt like I was on my own. I never took advantage of the Patient Navigators available to me during my stay, but I appreciated the knowledge that they were there and available if needed.
When I was first diagnosed with my cancer I was completely blindsided and overwhelmed. Knowing that there are organizations such as ASCF helping patients get through such an extremely difficult experience gives me an amazing amount of hope moving forward as a cancer survivor. As I stated before, ASCF was a blessing for me and deserve a great amount of support to continue providing aid to other survivors and their families.

1 Gina L.1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I was so blessed to find ASCF. Not only did they provide us with housing, but the navigator program is amazing. A Shelter for Cancer Families was so thorough and at a VERY hard time in our lives made the process much easier. I especially am thankful for the great questions and note-taking during the appointments because it is an easy way to share information with family. The housing had everything we needed and the support made healing much more hopeful.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

ASCF has made it more financially feasible to continue my quarterly screenings by returning to Houston within the very important two year window post treatments, after moving to Illinois. I was miraculously declared well on Friday, May 13th, 2016 after receiving my cancer treatments at MDA in Houston where I was very fortunate to live. I received screenings every three months as part of my follow up plan. When a year and half into those follow up appointments, my husband received a job offer in Illinois after being out of work for 4 years (a blessing in some regard as he could take care of me and our son who was 2 years old at the time that I was diagnosed), I was concerned about where I would receive checkups during that delicate two year post treatment window. Traveling from Illinois was not going to be cheap, and after my husband's unemployment for so long, and my unemployment during treatment, I worried about the financial hits of traveling to Houston, yet also felt uncomfortable not continuing my care with my MDA team in Houston at least for that two year window. Missy Bellinger is truly an angel, and since moving in October 2017, has provided generous assistance to fund my flights to Houston so that I can receive my checkups at MDA and receive peace of mind, which is truly the greatest gift of all. Thank you Missy for all you do! How lucky and blessed you are to have such a clear calling. You create an incredible comforting impact to individuals' and families' lives which get turned upside down. I pray for the day when your job is done because, in large part due to your efforts and other organizations like ASCF, this disease is no more.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

It never crossed my mind that we had to leave our beloved island, Puerto Rico, to receive medical treatment for any reason. But, one day before Hurricane Maria hit our island, my husband was diagnosed with Soft Tissue Sarcoma . After the scourge of the hurricane, everything was devastated on our island. There were no essential services such as water, power or communication. There was no access to specialized medical services or studies. So there was no other option than to leave the island, hoping to get adequate treatment for his condition. It is very stressful to have to deal with a cancer diagnosis, not have medical insurance to cover the treatment in the United States and as if it was not enough, have to pay for a safe place to stay. And all this at the same time. But an angel sent by God, contacted us with Missy Bellinger who welcomed us from the first moment. When we learned that housing was free of charge, we could not believe it. It was great relief. It has been a great blessing to be able to count on their support. One of the most important things about ASCF is that you are able to stay with your family and also, your friends are welcome to visit and stay with you. In addition, it has a group of exceptional volunteers that make you feel at home. Since we are here, we have never felt alone, helpless or burdened. It is not simply the structure that shelters you, but the arms that wrap you when you need it most. The people of ASCF celebrate with you every special occasion and every important date. And not only do they provide care to the patient, but also to their entire family. God bless these special people for us and for all the families that they have helped for so long.

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

A Shelter for Cancer Families has generously offered us housing twice over the past 3 months as we travelled to Houston from New England for my son's osteosarcoma treatments. Many thanks to Missy Bellinger and her teams for their help and hospitality during our travels.

2 TnBarry1

Client Served

Rating: 5

If not for this organization, we would have had to stop coming to M.D. Anderson long ago. Now into her fifth year of the fight and every three months return.

Previous Stories
4

Client Served

Rating: 5

We have been the fortunate recipients of the service this organization provides. Without them, I honestly do not know how we could have managed to be together during my wife's surgeries in Houston for a rare sarcoma. Traveling from Tn is quite an expense but not having to add housing to the travel was not only a financial blessing but also a stress relieving blessing for both my wife and I. The housing has been wonderful and the staff at the apt complex super. The main contact we have had at AMSCHWAND, Melissa Ballinger, has been great in communications and more than just helpful but really goes the extra mile.

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

Thanks to Missy and ASCF foundation we were able to have a home away from home. What a wonderful and generous gift to families traveling from out of town to receive care at MD Anderson. By offering a clean and welcoming apartment free of charge is truly a gift when juggling the cost of travel and medical bills. The apartment is fully stocked with kitchenware such as plates, utensils, pots/pans, and paper goods along with a washer and dryer. It is located near the Med Center and has a free shuttle to transport you there. The apartment complex even has a gym, pool, and amazing outdoor seating area. Granted, it snowed when we were there so we could not take advantage of the cool (both literally and figuratively) outdoor amenities, but it was great for a photo opportunity because it is not often one sees snow in TX on pool chairs, umbrella, and palm trees. :) We felt the freezing temps were a positive sign since I had a successful cryoablation procedure where they froze the tumor. :).
I would highly recommend ASCF for anyone traveling to Houston for treatment. Missy and ASCF will take special care of you and your family. Truly a gem!
Thank you from the bottom of our hearts! ~The Rayner Family

2

Client Served

Rating: 5

Just want to say thank you

Dear ASCF ,

I wish to thank you for the support and help you provided, during our stay at one of your facilities. For both my daughter and myself was a blessing to have such a nice place to stay and rest during my daughters post surgery recuperation time.
All this made our stay easier for me and Natalia, the apartment has a convenient location near the Medical Center. Both Missy and Volunteers are nice and helpful in providing for every need possible. Well organized, clean and includes all that you need to make your stay as comfortable as possible. I recommend this non-profit organization to anyone who needs a safe, comfortable,convenient and so well kept [lace during your medical needs.
thanks so much ,

Denise and Natalia