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We Care is a local charity for Cumberland Countians

When Burkesville and Cumberland County families are in need, the We Care local charity is there for them. Unlike the American Cancer Society, a highly recognized charity in the realm of research for a cure, this money stays right where it is collected. The Steel Force Stampede motorcycle ride with leader Leon Smith is now the charity's biggest annual fundraiser in addition to yard sales.

By Linda Waggener

We Care charity organization was founded over a decade ago in Burkesville, KY, when Hazel Willis Smith lost her first sister to cancer. The charity lives on today and helps people with gas for travel, medicine, food, etc., and recipients must be current residents of Cumberland County. Nobody who works with We Care gets paid.

Hazel said, "Shirley died at the young age of 51 after being diagnosed with brain tumor in 1997. She kept having headaches for about a year and doctors kept telling her she was just going through menopause. Shirley told one doctor that if this is just menopause, I just want to go ahead and die. She was sent to Louisville for tests and scans. One of the sisters lives there so they visited after the tests and toured around the city before she came home where the tests showed she had a fast growing brain tumor. She was immediately put in intensive care with her husband protesting, 'but she was just out shopping this afternoon!'. Doctors wanted to do surgery immediately but Hazel remembers Shirley said, 'no, we're going to celebrate one more birthday.'"

"I was in beauty school, 47 years old, living home with mom and Big Boy since a divorce from my first husband, Bobby Hagan. When Shirley got the brain tumor, they told her she had to have all these treatments, but she wanted to come home. We had a three day yard/bake sale and made over ten thousand dollars from right here in Cumberland County, people were coming by and buying pecan pies and apple pies and leaving donations. We had enough money to move Shirley and her husband to Cumberland County until they could sell their house in Glasgow."

Shirley said, "Keep the fundraising going, help others." I can still feel Shirley squeezing my hand and we'd pray. Every time she woke she'd think it was morning and we'd have to have breakfast. Shirley requested we continue to raise money for needy families. When we get short of funds I talk to Shirley. Jo Murley named the organization. My way of coping with my loss is to stay busy. I work at it all the time and will all my life. I'm hoping a great niece will be ready to take over We Care after me.

"There were 15 of us Willis kids, ten girls and five boys, and four have been lost to cancer. The youngest was a Downs child, Phillip (Big Boy) who always called me Hassle because he couldn't say Hazel. We grew up out in the Sulphur Creek Hollow. Dad died at age 67 but Mother lived into her nineties. Mom said near her death, 'I believe the Lord has forgot I'm here.' Daddy wasn't diagnosed but probably had lung and colon cancer. All his brothers and sisters died of lung cancer. That may have been been where the family cancer comes from."

The Steel Force Stampede motorcycle ride is now the charity's biggest fundraiser in addition to the yard sales. The leader of the ride is Leon Smith -- our 7th grade teacher. We were running really low on funds and I had talked to Shirley that morning as I got ready for the day. Leon came to us that very day with his idea.

She said, "Leon got some criticism because he switched fundraising for Relay and started fundraising for We Care but he wanted the money he helped to raise to stay local and the American Cancer Association Relay money goes to its headquarters instead of coming back into the locale where it originated.

"All who work in the organization are close friends and/or family. Regular We Care fundraisers include: Robbie Murray, yard sales; Wanda Branham, florist; Deanna Willis, caterer; Jo Murley, publicist; Nora Mae Brown, Effie Johnson, Emily Allen, Phyllis Roach, Sharon Branham, Cora Keene Duncan, Jerri Rush, Molly Davis, Christine Smith, Phyllis Smith, Jana Thacker, Cindy Pennycuff, Linda Riddle, Ginger Butler, Brandy Fairley and of course, Johnny Sells, my friend and co-fundraiser. Joyce Claywell Sells, Johnny's late wife, was an avid worker for We Care. She requested We Care donations instead of flowers and many people help the organization in this way."

CM readers with Cumberland County ties may send donations to We Care at the address below.

They accept money and donations of anything that will sell, estates, etc., to raise funds. They sell Eara Mae Pearls, made at the adult day care center by "Uncle Cindy" (Big Boy's name for her).

They sell a cookbook for $10. Its dedication reads, "We Care is a support group established in loving memory of Shirley Willis Anderson who died of cancer on December 1, 1997. It is made up of people who care about the needs of the family and those with cancer in our area. All proceeds go to financially support them when they need to know someone out there does care. We Care."

Mail check to: We Care, Inc., P.O. Box 695, Burkesville, KY 42717

Feature story by Linda and Ed Waggener,

This story was posted on 2015-02-22 09:42:55
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We Care cookbooks help raise funds for local charity

2015-02-22 - Burkesville, KY - Photo by Linda Waggener.
We Care charity organization was founded in Burkesville, KY, when a family member was battling cancer. It hit the family out of the blue and money was raised to help move them back home where there would be help around the clock. In the photo are charity founder Hazel Willis Smith and Johnny Sells, her friend and co-fundraiser. They say one way they cope with losses, her four family members, and his wife, is by working every day to help others. - LINDA WAGGENER, CM

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