Frenship employee fund aids in catastrophes

In 2005, Nancy Burnett was diagnosed with B-cell non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

The North Ridge Elementary School third-grade interventionist thought she was in perfect health, but after a regular physical one Wednesday, the next Wednesday she was having surgery.

And then the cycle of medical bills started.

“They were extremely high. No one really understands how high cancer treatment is,” said Burnett. “Mine started out, $3,000 or $4,000 every time I went.”

One drug was $5,000 every time she had to take it.

“I was able to pay my house payment,” she said. “I was able to maintain my personal expenses, but my medical bills were just stacking up and stacking up.”

She had a paper box that was three-fourths full of bills from various doctors.

“When you get a bill and it’s $14,000, and you wonder, ‘how am I going to pay that?’ the stress of owing the money and the stress of the disease, together are not fun,” she said.

Then she found out about the Frenship Employee Emergency Relief Fund.

Started in 2003 as part of the Frenship Foundation, the fund helps Frenship staff out in times of financial emergencies and catastrophes. The fund has been used to help employees out who have been deployed in war, who have had a home burn down or who have been diagnosed with a major illness.

“The fund was made known to me. Actually, an administrator asked me if I had applied for help, because they knew how much I was paying out,” she said. “I did, and that money helped me pay the medical expenses that I had. Because otherwise, I’d still be paying them. Actually, it took me about two years to pay the very first year off.”

Burnett said the help from the Frenship relief fund really helped her out with expenses beyond what was covered by insurance.

Candace Cameron, a music teacher at North Ridge who is on the district committee for the relief fund, said in its first year, $22,028 was collected from payroll deductions from staff members.

That year, there were eight requests approved and $11,482 was paid out.

Last year, $30,875 was collected, 10 requests were approved and $23,722 was disbursed.

Over the life of the fund, $159,500 has been collected, 72 requests by Frenship employees in financial distress were approved for payment and $125,796 was paid out.

Next month, the committee is designating November as “Thankful Month,” Cameron said, noting that they want more people to be aware of the fund and that it is available and to know this is a way they can give back.

“I think a lot of people forgot about it after they set it up,” said Cameron. “A lot of times, we go to the people and say, ‘We know that you need help.’ ”

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