University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Kathy Quirk

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Nov 2, 2011 
Cancer patients’ ‘closet’ attracts gifts large and small
Loan and Gift Closet
The Greenfield High School girls swim team donated to the Loan and Gift Closet as a gesture of support for a teammate's mother. Foreground: Wigs donated to the Loan and Gift Closet.

Relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins contributed to the Milwaukee Brewers’ winning season.

He also contributed to a gift and loan “closet” that helps women who are fighting cancer.

Wolfs and Peterman
Debbie Wolf (left) and her daughter (right) with Beth Peterman.

The girl’s swim team at Greenfield High School closed its season Oct. 15 and chose to donate to the same cause in honor of Debbie Wolf, mother of one of their teammates, who has battled cancer for nine years. Both the famous baseball player and small-town swim team came together to support a common cause – the Loan and Gift Closet program at the House of Peace’s Community Nursing Center on Milwaukee’s North Side.

The program provides needed items like wigs, walkers, scarves and canes to those undergoing treatment for cancer, according to Beth Peterman, director of the nursing center, which is run by the UWM College of Nursing.

Most of these items are costly, and the low-income residents the center serves cannot afford them, she explains. “They also were items that were considered ‘luxuries,’ not necessities,” by insurance companies, says Peterman.

The Greenfield swim team raises money each year at swim meets by selling baked goods, team shirts and other items, and donates it to a chosen cause. When Wolf told them about how touched she was by the wigs and other help she’d received at the House of Peace, the team members decided to donate this year’s earnings to the Loan and Gift Closet.

“I really appreciated the help the House of Peace gave me,” says Wolf, “and I’m proud of the team for raising the money for the Gift Closet.”

The House of Peace Nursing Center emphasizes health promotion and disease prevention through education and screening programs as well as programs on nutrition and exercise. The center has a particular emphasis on cancer prevention and support services for families dealing with cancer.

The Loan and Gift Closet was set up 15 years ago to meet this need for personal items cancer treatment patients, particularly women, needed. The most requested items were wigs, turbans, head scarves, breast prostheses and the bras that accommodate them, walkers, canes and devices to assist in bathing.

In addition to providing such items to patients, the nurses at the center help women with measuring and fitting for the bras and prostheses. They also work individually to help women with needed follow-up care and overcoming any barriers to continuing care.

“The women who use this program are always so grateful for the support, care and assistance the nurses provide, as well as the items they receive,” says Peterman.

The women are encouraged to return for additional services and information as needed.

“The needs are great,” says Peterman, “and we are seeing a number of women at least twice a year and at times in between.”