Stewart’s Caring Place keeps cancer support flowing in aftermath of office disaster

An Akron-area cancer support center that serves patients and their families throughout Ohio is working to bring its programming back to normal after a calamity hit its offices late last month.

Stewart’s Caring Place in Fairlawn suffered extensive water damage when a pipe burst the morning of Jan. 23, CEO Sarah Vojtek said.

The organization was in the middle of holding a corporate partner-led training in the boardroom when people noticed water coming down from the ceiling.

“Luckily, some of our classes had just ended,” she said. “Before we could do anything about it, that’s when the floodgates opened in the art room, the boardroom, and some of the support group rooms,” Vojtek said.

The facility immediately closed for a weeklong drying-out period. There is currently no standing water left in the building, and Vojtek said last week that Stewart’s should soon receive a full assessment of the damage from contractors and insurers working to determine the cause of the rupture.

How has office flooding affected Stewart’s Caring Place patient services?

Vojtek said some services were uninterrupted despite the initial office-space shutdown; Stewart’s doors were still open and phone lines still operating, so people could stop by for whatever they needed.

“Whether it was a wig fitting or grocery shares from the food pantry or if they just needed someone to talk to, we were still able to help in that way,” she said.

For programs that regularly meet at the Fairlawn site, Vojtek said, community partners are helping to host offsite gatherings until repairs have been completed.

For instance, Springside Athletic Club has stepped in to provide space for physical fitness classes — “phenomenal” assistance for Stewart’s as it aims to offer uninterrupted care, Vojtek said.

“We are going to make sure the impact is not felt by our participants, families and the communities we serve,” she said.

Some programs also have been switched to virtual participation via Zoom. Vojtek said a healthy environment is critical for the families served by Stewart’s, so fans and purifiers have been running 24/7 to make sure the space is safe and dry for visitors.

What is Stewart’s Caring Place?

The cancer wellness center was founded in 2003 by Mimi Surloff and named after her husband Dr. Stewart Surloff. Dr. Surloff was a podiatrist from Akron who was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2001.

As Surloff was dealing with his cancer journey, he noticed the mental and emotional toll of how his diagnosis affected his family. As a result, he wanted to open a facility that offered wellness services to those affected by cancer in the surrounding community. His wife saw his vision through, as he had already passed away before the organization was incorporated.

Counting its virtual programs, the center said it served clients in 39 counties last year. Stewart’s programs and services, which are offered at no cost to patients and their loved ones, include support groups, a wig room, massages, physical fitness, a food pantry and other wraparound services.

“We are here to serve anyone who feels impacted by a cancer diagnosis, whether that be the cancer patient themselves or a loved one, caregiver, family member or friend, we know that those members of someone’s immediate circle can feel an emotional impact of a cancer diagnosis,” Vojtek said.

Originally Posted on Akron Beacon Journal

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