An Upper Arlington woman who credits an early diagnosis and medical care for helping her beat breast cancer was honored for her work with an organization that provides access to cancer screenings, education and prevention services.
Charlotte Collister, an Upper Arlington resident since 1968, received the 2018 Spirit Award July 3 from the Columbus Cancer Clinic for "unwavering support and dedication" to the clinic and its clients.
Founded in 1921, the Columbus Cancer Clinic now is an agency of LifeCare Alliance. Its mission is to provide low-cost or free head-to-toe cancer screenings and mammograms, cancer-prevention programs and education. It seeks to aid underserved individuals in central Ohio and provides services regardless of one's ability to pay.
According to LifeCare Alliance communications director Michelle Jones, Collister has been a member of the Columbus Cancer Clinic's board of directors since 2002, including ongoing service on its strategic planning committee.
Collister is credited with providing a leadership role on the board, particularly in the areas of community engagement and fundraising.
"She was well-respected among her peers and provided sound guidance and counsel to the Cancer Clinic board of directors and staff," Jones said. "In addition to her tireless board service, Charlotte also generously supported the Cancer Clinic financially via personal gifts, as well as event sponsorships."
Collister's involvement with the Columbus Cancer Clinic stretches to before its merger with LifeCare Alliance in 2005.
She began volunteering for the organization shortly after being diagnosed and treated for breast cancer in 1986.
"I was very interested in helping people who had that kind of problem," Collister said. "I felt very strongly that I had to give back. I needed to make sure others had some of the opportunities I had."
Although the Columbus Cancer Clinic has provided screenings and education for nearly 100 years, it's resources were being stretched too thinly in the early 2000s to effectively serve the community.
Jones said Collister has played an integral role in working with the organization's board to merge with LifeCare Alliance to provide it with greater economic resources and stability.
"As a result of Charlotte's support and leadership, the decision was made to merge into LifeCare Alliance in 2005," Jones said. "While this was a challenging situation that was filled with risks and uncertainties, the decision was the right one and today, more clients than ever are being served by the cancer clinic than prior to the merger.
"The cancer clinic clients also have access to more programs and services that are provided by LifeCare Alliance, including Meals-on-Wheels, Groceries-to-Go pantry, etc."
Collister said she's proud of those expanded services, as well as enhanced programs to provide mobile mammography and cancer screening services to low-income areas.
"The mobile mammography unit is big and goes out to areas where people might not have access to those services," she said. "We also have a food service, ride-sharing services. Overall, the Columbus Cancer Clinic, as part of LifeCare Alliance, provides very necessary services to people who may not be able to afford or get those services."
Jones said Collister continues to use her leadership skills to assist the Columbus Cancer Clinic "with all facets of strategic planning, and is in effect still watching over the cancer clinic's growth and operations."
Collister said past and present Columbus Cancer Clinic board members have played an equally vital role in ensuring the services have been enhanced.
She said that work not only has given countless people in central Ohio earlier diagnoses than they would have gotten otherwise, if at all; it also has helped spread awareness about cancer, cancer prevention and screening.
"It has been a thrill to be part of the Columbus Cancer Clinic and be part of the whole community of nonprofits that work so hard with limited resources for the betterment of our community," Collister said. "I've gained as much as I've given."