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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Komen funding continues to save lives in Charlotte
National flap overshadows local efforts
 
Published Thursday, April 26, 2012 8:17 am
by Ryanne Persinger

As someone who has lost a great aunt (the family matriarch) to breast cancer and as a young adult who has utilized services from Planned Parenthood, I found myself angry at Susan G. Komen For the Cure earlier this year when the nonprofit announced it would no longer provide grants to Planned Parenthood.

Ryanne Persinger


I felt betrayed because as a woman I believe, the two organizations – one supporting breast health, the other sexual health – should support one another. Why should I have to choose where my loyalties lie? Why should women not fight for one another?


The decision came after Komen’s criteria for grants changed, thus affecting Planned Parenthood because the group is under congressional investigation. Komen adopted a new policy of not rewarding funds to organizations being investigated by local, state or federal authorities.


“I read up on everything and I said to myself, ‘Oh my God Komen has really pulled this funding,’“ said Reba Whaley, a breast cancer survivor. “I thought why am I giving my time and effort and resources (to Komen) and asking everybody else to do the same when they could be swayed depending on which political party could scream the loudest.”


Whaley says it was short sighted of Komen’s national office to not see its decision would create problems for local affiliates.


“I was a little ticked off,” said Whaley, who credits Komen Charlotte with saving her life. “Their decision making affected every local affiliate around the country. That is what people identify with. They don’t identify with Komen national.”


But after a backlash from women, Komen announced it would reverse its decision and amend the criteria to make clear that disqualifying investigations must be criminal probes, not political. Some were upset that Komen would give monies to Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions. However, according to Planned Parenthood only 3 percent of all health services include abortions and furthermore federal money donated must only be used for which it is awarded.


How did any of that affect Charlotte?


Neel Stallings, acting executive director for Komen Charlotte, graciously came to speak to the women of The Charlotte Post to answer our questions.


Stallings says it took her two weeks to personally respond to every single call and email regarding concerns when the Planned Parenthood drama unfolded.


“The place went crazy with phone calls and emails,” Stallings said. “Not only did we get it from folks on the left side but then we got it from the right. People care about this because it’s a hot topic.”


In Komen Charlotte’s 16 years of existence, Planned Parenthood has applied for a grant once, and that was in 2005. The grant was not funded, Stallings said.


Grants have to meet the Komen mission. Criteria is provided by the national office.


Stallings said all of Planned Parenthood affiliates that were receiving money in the past from Komen are still receiving grants.


“We want no conflict whatsoever,” said Stallings, a breast cancer survivor. “The national office is totally separate from us. It’s like a franchise.”
Stallings spoke on key issues she wanted women to know:


• Komen is about screening, treatment and education.


• 75 percent of all monies raised stays local; 25 percent goes to national.


• Susan G. Komen supports nine counties: Mecklenburg, Cabarrus, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Rowan, Stanly, Union and York.


• From April 1 through March 13, 2013 Komen Charlotte is awarding $1.4 million for local programs to women with limited resources in its nine county service area.


• Komen Charlotte’s Race for the Cure (Oct. 6) is the biggest fundraiser for the organization, followed by Laugh for the Cure, and donations.
“This is our top priority for us,” Stallings said of raising awareness for underrepresented segments. “National Komen is totally separate from us.”


Whaley says in the grand scheme of things it’s the local affiliate of Komen Charlotte she cares about because they work with women like her.


“It’s Komen off of Randolph Road that I’m most concerned about because that is who impacts my community,” she said. “I will do whatever Komen Charlotte needs me to do. I will be on the battle lines saying, ‘hey be mad at national not at Komen Charlotte. Your anger will affect Charlotte and not national."


She added: “I am a breast cancer survivor. “I have the most to lose any time something happens with Komen. This was a national problem, but the local chapter should not be attached to what the national affiliate is doing.”


Whaley still continues to work with Komen Charlotte closely and raise money for its Race for the Cure event.


“Over time, I have still haven’t reconciled with the national office,” Whaley added. “However this is the affiliate that helped me get through my treatment. That is the office that plants money to women in Mecklenburg County and surrounding counties to women who are disadvantaged.”


I respect Whaley and Stallings as breast cancer survivors and women informing our community about the importance of breast health. I thank Stallings for taking the time to come to The Post and speak to our staff.


No one knows for sure if Komen national will reverse its decision about funding Planned Parenthood in the future. What we can be sure of is that Komen Charlotte saves lives. Just ask Whaley.


RYANNE PERSINGER is features editor at The Post.

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