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Meet Iris Lee Knell of Chemocessories in Redondo Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Iris Lee Knell.

Iris, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. During my treatment which included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, I continued to work and take care of my 3 children, who were 18, 15 and 12 at the time. It was important for me to look good and keep a positive attitude during my treatment. I didn’t like my wig, it was hot and didn’t feel great, so I wore a lot of turbans and scarves and matched them with jewelry. Toward the end of my treatment, I began to wonder if I could do what I was doing and help other women.

In 2011, I started to put together sets of a scarf, turban and jewelry and brought them to the Cancer Support Community to give out to women going through treatment, and also gave one to a friend’s mother who was going through treatment. As time went on, I realized I should consider applying for nonprofit status. In December 2014 we became a nonprofit organization, started a website and as of today we have donated 4250 sets to every state in the US, to Canada and a few other countries. Currently we receive over 150 requests for our sets each month.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge is getting donations. Items for each set and monetary donations also. It means always having to ask for help. Having enough money to mail the sets and to buy whatever supplies we don’t have. like turbans or scarves, mailing envelopes and especially postage. Friends have been very generous, however as time goes on and more people find out about us, they request for our sets has increased and we need to be able to meet the demand.

Space is a struggle, a year and half ago we moved out a bedroom of my house to a tiny storage space, its houses our supplies and fits one volunteer. To put the sets together we use my private therapy office which is across the hall, and we fit about 4 volunteers. We are still growing.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Chemocessories – what should we know?
We are a nonprofit, we are 100% volunteer run, no one receives a salary. We help women with cancer, I am a cancer survivor and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. We are proud to give back to the community, at a very difficult time in a woman’s life. We are making others smile. We are providing strength, courage and hope.

We are donating a scarf, a turban and matching it with jewelry, adding an inspirational message and sending it to a woman going through chemotherapy and cancer. What sets us apart is that to our knowledge no one else is doing this. We are not charging for this service and feel that “Small things, given with great love, can do so much”

Our mission is to help women with cancer hold on to their strength and sense of themselves during treatment. We create personalized sets of accessories, including jewelry, scarves and turbans to our designed to lift spirits and remind each woman that treatment in no way diminishes the beautiful woman within.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Being genuine, kind, honest, giving, open and supportive. Listening to others and hopefully making them feel better after our interactions. Being positive, caring and respectful of others. Appreciating others time and efforts, and always thanking people for what they do, no matter how small it is.

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Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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