Linda Topper, left, and Linda Johnson, both of New Freedom, wrap an Easter basket at the New Freedom office of H.O.P.E. - a nonprofit that helps cancer
Linda Topper, left, and Linda Johnson, both of New Freedom, wrap an Easter basket at the New Freedom office of H.O.P.E. - a nonprofit that helps cancer patients. The 35 baskets made will go to cancer patients and family members affected by cancer. (DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS - PAUL KUEHNEL)
H.O.P.E could just be this area's best kept secret.

Help For Oncology Problems & Life Support, otherwise known as H.O.P.E., has been providing support for cancer patients and their families since 1994 and there are still people who have never heard of it.

Executive director and co-founder, Barbara Titanish and her volunteers provide to ease the patient's stress, assist patients in their battle against cancer, and educate patients and the community on cancer treatment and prevention.

They perform many tasks for patients including: sewing, driving them to and from appointments, caring for the kids, stocking the food pantry or even making meals. They feed the pets, help with laundry and shovel snow, too.

There are programs for adults, teens and kids that offer help and ideas and maybe most often, a listening ear.

"Kids need to play and kids need to talk about their concerns, so first we play and then we talk about it," Titanish said. "This may be the only place teens with cancer can come and talk with other teens with cancer."

A call for help may come in the early hours of the morning, and Titanish or other volunteers leave their beds to go to the bedside of an ill patient or to the family's home to offer strength and comfort, often in the final hours.

When loss is tough to deal with, Titanish credits Ed, her husband of 41 years, for giving her strength. He reminds her she chose this life and there is no backing out now, she said, but that he will be there waiting for her to come home.

Titanish said she is reminded constantly of a promise she made to Jeanette Cartwright, H.O.P.E.'s late co-founder.

During her battle with cancer, Cartwright said there should be a "vacation from cancer" -- a place where cancer patients and their families could escape the challenges, if only for a day or two.

The dream is now what Titanish and her volunteers call "The Farm," a retreat where cancer patients and their families can go when the realities of the disease become too much.

The main house of The Farm offers a free bed and breakfast for patients, and includes a chapel, a green house, tranquility gardens and walking paths.

Pam Marshner's nephew was diagnosed with cancer and that was when Marshner said she found H.O.P.E. "in her own backyard."

In a letter, Marshner writes about how her family and others have been helped by the nonprofit.

"The idea is that what makes HOPE unique is that they are not just there to send a check occasionally," she wrote. "They get to know the family and go out of their way to find out what would help the most. Then they do it."

About H.O.P.E.

H.O.P.E. is located at 150 East Main Street, New Freedom. More information on H.O.P.E. is available at their website, www.hopeforcancerfamilies.org, or by calling 227-2824. You may also email Barbara Titanish at barb@hopeforcancerfamilies.org.

Bingo and food drive

H.O.P.E. will sponsor a basket bingo and non-perishable food drive on April 22 at the New Freedom Community Center. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. and bingo starts at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. Tickets must be picked up no late than April 21. There will be 25 games, 5 secret games, 1 losers game special game, raffles, 50/50. pull tab chances and lots of door prizes.

Ten prizes will be awarded as a thank you to those who donate to the food drive. One chance for every item donated.

For tickets call 717-227-2824 or 717-244-4891.