Leukemia Society thrives on neighborhood collections


FANNIE BERKOW Wolfe is a little live-wire volunteer who is just over four feet tall. She recently greeted a visitor to the Leukemia Society offices in Towson with "I bet you didn't believe I'd be this short?" She was right, considering the load of work she puts out for the society.

This diminutive ball of energy is 83 years old and has volunteered there for 11 years, "where I do whatever is necessary," she says. Presently she is working with staff member Pearl Kramer processing the envelopes to be sent to people who have volunteered to collect donations for the Leukemia Society's drive the last week in March and through April.

Kramer has been working at the society for 26 of the 28 years since it was established here.

Several other staff members make calls to recruit volunteers for many programs, particularly volunteers willing to collect in their neighborhoods. Those names go to Kramer and Wolfe for processing.

"With the help of a cross-reference, we can include the names of families living on a particular block and get it all ready for the volunteer," says Wolfe, proudly flipping her tiny hands through long trays of envelopes all addressed and in neat rows ready to be mailed.

Money from this residential campaign goes for financial help for patients and for research into the cause and eventual cure of leukemia and allied diseases such as Hodgkins' disease, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and preleukemia.

Leukemia is a disease of those parts of the body that make blood, mainly the bone marrow and spleen. Millions of abnormal, useless white blood cells accumulate, preventing production of normal blood cells and platelets and letting the leukemic cells flood the system.

In children between the ages of 2 and 15, only accidents account for more deaths. Leukemia kills more adults -- mostly those over 60 -- than children. And, in America, some 75,000 will contact leukemia or one of the related diseases this year and another 43,000 will die from them.

The disease is not inherited or contagious. It can be treated but cannot be prevented. Suspects in its cause include x-rays, chemical irritants, viruses, radiation and birth defects.

The Leukemia Society of America, Maryland chapter, is a voluntary health agency providing supplementary financial assistance yearly to patients with leukemia and its allied diseases. It also offers referral services for sources of help in the community.

Five major programs -- research, patient-aid, public education, professional education and community service -- are supported by the society, which is supported solely by contributions from the public.

Wolfe volunteered originally because a member of her family had the disease. She is a widow and has one daughter, Sarah.

The Leukemia Society's executive director is Patricia Dodd, and Jenny H. McGill is the program coordinator. Dodd says that with a staff of five the society covers all counties in the state except for Prince George's and Montgomery, which are in the Washington chapter. That arrangement is "unusual, and it also keeps us from having some very wealthy counties under us, but that's the way it was established," says McGill.

She also asks for volunteers to do office work, make telephone calls, do light typing and mailings. Volunteers are needed for the registration tables, to handle money, serve refreshments and other jobs for the society's many fund-raisers.

The society's new offices are in the Shell Building, 200 E. Joppa Road, Suite 102-B, Towson 21204. The telephone number is 825-2500.

Those who wish to volunteer or donate to the Leukemia Society should write or call Jenny McGill at 825-2500.

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