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Meet Kathleen (Katie) Quintas of Here to Serve in San Gabriel Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kathleen (Katie) Quintas.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kathleen. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
After receiving the cancer diagnoses of both my husband (Leukemia) and then 16-year-old son (Stage 4 Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma) six months apart, I became acutely aware of the mind-numbing pain that happens when a life-threatening health crisis knocks at your door. However, I also experienced the awe-inspiring help of family, friends, acquaintances, coworkers and the community at large. It was nothing short of miraculous! Even so, organizing those who came alongside me to help including church, school, family, friends and coworkers was a monumental task! To make matters worse, my son was in one hospital, City of Hope, and my husband was being treated at UCLA. Schedules did not always match up.

I thought I had all the details of my family’s health crises covered, only to find out that I did not… There were so many services I could have availed myself to but I was too overwhelmed to even look. I found these services later when I could no longer access them. I also felt, with all the help offered, I was good to go! I did not realize what it would take to coordinate those who wanted to help; even when you have friends and family offering to do coordinate the people who want to help! What I found was, six months into the journey, many people had already gone on with their own lives and assumed I had it all under control. It was then that I was most exhausted and needed the help, which had now dwindled to a small group that I did not feel comfortable always calling upon…

I conceived of Here to Serve in 2010. I researched what services were available to pediatric cancer parents, obtained our 501 (c) 3, and launched in the Fall of 2011. Our program is set up to bring together not only the community of volunteers who wish to help each family we serve but also the many support services that often go untapped because you either are not aware of them or do not have the energy to seek them out. Here to Serve’s Family Care Coordinators and website services help mobilize, inspire, encourage, intercede, navigate, collaborate, facilitate and bring together communities of people and service organizations to assist caregiver parents during times of medical crisis throughout the ENTIRE journey, not just early on.

It has been a trying journey as we bring the focus of childhood cancer not just to researching cancer and financially supporting hospitals that treat childhood cancer but also to supporting families who are making the cancer journey with their child. We firmly believe childhood cancer is a three-legged stool…Research, Treatment and Journey. All three need awareness and support.

My husband, Silvio Quintas, supported me and devoted his time and energy to our mission every chance he could. He was a Middle School teacher even as he battled leukemia himself since 2006. He lost his battle with leukemia in February 2014, dying from the side effects of the cancer drugs meant to keep him in remission. My son won his battle with Stage IV cancer and graduated USC in 2014 shortly after his father passed away.

Here to Serve has been through struggles to get our message out that the pediatric cancer “journey” MATTERS as much as research and treatment. The physical, emotional, financial and often spiritual toll cancer takes on childhood cancer families is one that needs to be highlighted and supported. Here to Serve is the ONLY wrap-around nonprofit supporting pediatric cancer families at home, with household duties, finances, child and pet care, and more.

Here to Serve is dedicated to my husband Silvio Quintas, my son Bryan Quintas, and founding board member Dr Philip Carlson who exhibited unimaginable courage, faith and dignity in their cancer battles. Because of these valiant warriors, Here to Serve strives to make a difference in the lives of families who have a child battling childhood cancer.

Has it been a smooth road?
Absolutely NOT! Since starting Here to Serve I lost my husband Silvio to cancer. I have taken countless parents through the death of their child, which is emotionally draining while encouraging other parents to keep fighting. Financially, we have struggled since inception. I don’t have a social circle that includes celebrities or people of means, which has hampered our visibility and fundraising at every turn. I had to sell my home and move to a rental after my husband died to keep Here to Serve going. I drained my retirement account to start Here to Serve and then accessed the proceeds from the sale of my home over these past five years to supplement often lackluster fundraising.

Some have asked why I gave up my personal financial stability to deal with tragedy and emotionally-charged circumstances that surround childhood cancer every day? It’s a calling that I feel God equipped me for because my own life has made me resilient as I have battled death, financial hardship, emotional upheaval, and health crises. I made a conscious decision to devote my life to this calling and honor my husband after his death because he so believed in what Here to Serve does to support childhood cancer families.

Then 2020 arrived with Covid, and what I thought were difficult circumstances previously were a gnat on an elephant! In the midst of Covid, my son almost died “again” in July from numerous and massive clots in both lungs and his leg. If not for emergency surgery, he would not be with us today. I had to go through his medical crisis from a distance. I could not go into the hospital. I could not send him into surgery with what could have been my last words of love, comfort, and a hug and kiss. I could not be there with him in ICU or be with him during the week he was in the hospital. However, it made me more sensitive to parents and others who have a health crisis during Covid and how the medical system denies you access to your loved one to be their advocate.

Covid required we cancel our fundraiser that brings in about 50% of our annual funding. We had to raise funds by personal appeals and other methods. However, Covid also has reshaped Here to Serve’s program and actually made it possible to offer our services nationwide.

We’d love to hear more about your organization.
Here to Serve is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit. We provide our services nationwide as of October 2020. Previously, we served the six counties in and around Los Angeles including: Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara. We are most proud of our ability to change the journey of pediatric cancer families giving them hope, help and emotional healing throughout their journey. We may not be able to change the medical outcome, but we can change the journey. Families emerge, no matter the outcome, feeling loved, supported and engaged with their community in ways they could never have imagined.

There are many “one-off” nonprofits that do great work in the childhood cancer category, but none that offer wrap-around services like Here to Serve and are nationwide to boot! We have been able to this on a shoestring budget. We are blessed to have amazing volunteers. We know we need a larger paid staff. We know we can do much more with proper funding but we are proud of what we have done with what funding we have been given. Great Nonprofits rates us as a five-star nonprofit organization and our comments from those who we have served often include, “what do families do without Here to Serve? How do they survive?” We don’t want these families to do this journey without Here to Serve and that is why we need more visibility and funding.

Our Mission
We believe a pediatric cancer diagnosis should not cause the loss of a person’s job, health, home or cause them to enter into bankruptcy to care for their child during cancer treatments. To help mitigate this, we mobilize people and resources to meet daily living requirements of families who do not qualify for government assistance.

Our Vision
Here to Serve envisions people inspired and mobilized to carry each other’s burdens during times of crisis, where guidance and assistance is offered freely as people and organizations collaborate to compassionately respond to those navigating childhood cancer. We seek to demystify the plethora of service organizations and to make them easily accessible, thereby easing the journey of families in medical crisis.

What We Do
Here to Serve provides tangible assistance to families caring for a child battling cancer.

We mobilize people and resources to meet daily living requirements of families who do not qualify for government assistance. We build online communities of support, called Care Communities, that provide a network of services and financial assistance for families with a critically-ill child. We provide a Family Care Coordinator to each family to provide all the support and resources the family needs and organize volunteers within the family’s online care community.

Our services begin at diagnosis, when a family realizes their life, as they know, it will no longer revolve around school activities, socializing, work and soccer games but instead, it will focus on understanding their child’s condition, navigating treatment options and resources while attempting to maintain a job as well as a sense of normalcy at home.

Home Needs Coordination
50% of parents of cancer kids indicate that they do not have time for themselves, nor do they get enough sleep.
Our goal is to avoid the mental and physical exhaustion often experienced by the caregiver and family after a childhood cancer diagnosis.

Our Family Care Coordinators:
Conduct a needs assessment and intake
Connect families with resources they never knew existed

Set-up online care community activities:
Errands
Child care
Grocery shopping
Household chores
Yard work
Pet care
Transportation
Fundraising events
Meal coordination
Set-up meal schedule
Communicate dietary needs and preferences
Provide recipe and meal suggestions
Procure local restaurant gift cards
Offer recipe websites for special dietary requirements
Customized meal recommendations

Suggest Ways to help a family from a distance:
Gas cards
Restaurant cards
Grocery Store cards
Amazon wish list
Special needs (like air purifiers, etc.)
Donate to family’s fund
Fundraising Assistance

“Cancer patients with insurance spend about a third of their household income on out-of-pocket health-care costs outside of insurance premiums. Even as insurance coverage has expanded, deductibles and copays on policies have risen, leaving patients to shoulder more of the financial burden for their health care.”
Dr. Fumiko Chino
Financial Toxicity of Cancer Care
JAMA Oncology

Here to Serve harnesses the community’s help to ease the devastating financial impact of a cancer diagnosis of a child or a young parent with school-aged children in the home. Here to Serve:
Promotes fundraising events that directly support the family
Coordinates with local businesses who provide financial assistance directly to the family
Sets up and manage a crowdfunding page, Go Fund Me
Helps identify foundations to financially support families during a medical crisis
Provides resources to help with co-pays and prescription drugs
Family Updates
Family Care Coordinators stay in touch with families throughout their journey communicating to friends and loved ones via the family’s Care Community about:

Status or changes in the child or parent’s condition.
Struggles the family faces emotionally, financially and with their own health.
Specific needs the family has.
Spiritual community support.
Our goal is to compassionately assist families with a flow of information joining with friends, neighbors, and loved ones who wish to help provide tools to be effective and organized in their support while being respectful of the family’s privacy and need to have undisturbed time alone.

Resource Referrals (External Resources)
Here to Serve Family Care Coordinators help families navigate and demystify the variety of nonprofit, professional, and business services available. They:

Respond to family’s urgent, unforeseeable needs.
Design plans and identify and secure service providers that meet the family’s needs.
Help families/caregivers apply for and receive services including financial assistance, transportation (ground/air) lodging, respite, wish requests and more.
Provide referrals to counseling services for medical and/or legal advice.
Match families with Informed and sensitive volunteers who themselves have gone through life-or-death crises (when possible).
Provide referrals to professional mental health counselors who are free or offer a sliding scale payment for services.
Offer tools to organize and compile medical, insurance and legal information.
Offer volunteers who provide individualized spiritual support.
Deliver resource list of books and informational materials (spiritual, practical and encouragement).

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Childhood cancer, for the foreseeable future, will be with us. Families will continue to have a child diagnosed with cancer. Some cancers will have better treatments and outcomes. New therapies will be available. Hopefully, survival rates will improve. But cancer will be with us unless a miracle cure is found. If that should happen, Here to Serve would be happy to shift services to another medical category like heart conditions in children.

The important trends I see are that more people, young and old, will become comfortable with computers, technology, and virtual meetings as part of their homelife and work. Our service is one that is organized through technology. This will make it easier for Here to Serve to help as multiple generations become accustomed to using technology in everyday life.

Pricing:

  • Our services are free

Contact Info:

  • Address: Kathleen (Katie) Quintas Founder/CEO
    Here to Serve
    400 Prospect Ave.
    Monrovia, CA 91016
  • Website: https://www.heretoserve.org/
  • Phone: (626) 353-8588
  • Email: katie@heretoserve.org


Image Credit:

Photo credit: Nick Boswell Photography

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