Editor’s Note: Nikki Patrick is on vacation this week. Morning Sun reporter Will Klusener has written a personality profile in her absence.
Pittsburg resident Diana Polston founded Angels Among Us, a group of volunteers dedicated to helping cancer patients with their finances, in 2000 after her own father died of cancer in 1990 and she started working as a volunteer with the American Cancer Society.
“We realized what a financial need there was in the community,” Polston said. “We do all kinds of fund raising all year long.”
Each year the group raises money to help patients pay whatever bills they have, be it food, gas, or electricity. And every year they raise money to help cancer patients purchase Christmas-related items such as presents and food. Via Christi Cancer Center officials give the group a list of patients — first name only, of course, to protect the patients’ privacy — they think could use some extra help, and the Angels figure out how to divvy up the money, which they present in the form of gift cards.
They started small their first year, Polston said, raising about $2,000 for their Christmas donations. Last year they raised nearly $8,000 for area patients, and on Wednesday night Polston received a $3,800 grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas to add to their Christmas chest. It was the first time Angels Among Us had received a grant from the Foundation.
“We’re pretty excited,” Polston said. “This half of what we usually give.”
Angels typically distributes the cards, which they purchase from local stores such as Walmart, Dillon’s or Ron’s, in $50 or $100 increments, but will get them with as much as $300 in certain circumstances, Polston said.
“We always try to make sure they get them before Christmas,” Polston said.
Polston said Angels Among Us has worked with the Foundation for years, but that she never thought to apply for a grant.
“It truly is an honor, and I don’t know that I ever thought we’d get it,” Polston said. “It was just the best news of the day. I guess I just didn’t understand the commitment of the Foundation. It made me very happy and proud.”
Cathy White, the Foundation’s executive director, said the grant committee awarded the money to Angels Among Us as because the group matches all of the right criteria, such as how many people will be impacted and how well they collaborate with other agencies and organizations.
“What they do is so far-reaching,” White said. “And they work quietly, just like angels who are among us.”