In the U.S. alone, approximately 264,000 women and 2,400 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. The physical effects of this illness might be commonly acknowledged, but the emotional trauma is equally impactful. Too often, the psychological stressors, augmented by financial burden, causes lives to unravel. These patients need support, and it must be more than pretty pink ribbons or a show of solidarity.
Enter Michelle Power.
Michelle is the founder and CEO of Pawsitively 4 Pink Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that has championed and supported low-income, underserved women in Massachusetts since 2018. Michelle has made it her mission to provide unwavering, long-term aid and companion animals to breast cancer patients, but more than that, and unlike most “support groups,” she offers the crucial supplement of financial assistance. On average each woman receives $9,500. This year alone, P4P has distributed nearly $150,000 to more than a dozen women.
Hers is a purposeful objective, and few people have the qualifications to take on such an endeavor. Prior to starting Pawsitively 4 Pink, Michelle was a psychotherapist for 25 years and served as a clinical supervisor for Spectrum Health Systems. She helped develop the Family Stabilization Program at Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and has maintained a private practice in the same area for over 30 years. Michelle also held the title of staff sergeant in the United States Air Force. And, as Michelle points out, “Pawsitively 4 Pink is not my first entrepreneurial adventure. I was the co-founder of a mold remediation company called Commonwealth Environmental Services and owned the Tatnuck Garden Center.”
The Top 100 Magazine was not only intrigued by Michelle and Pawsitively 4 Pink (P4P), but compelled to learn more. What we unearthed was more than just an inspiring story.
Michelle, what was the impetus for starting Pawsitively 4 Pink?
Having watched my mother battle with anxiety around meeting her financial obligations after being diagnosed with cancer, I was left feeling helpless. As a child who often worried about food and staying in our home, I recognize the importance of these matters and how they relate to one’s psychological well-being. Those two needs must not be a concern when dealing with an illness.
I grew up in a low socioeconomic class. I know that households and individuals of lower income status are more likely to suffer from poorer health, and have fewer resources to buffer against the negative effects of major health issues. As a result, unexpected adverse health events can be particularly devastating for these households because they disrupt employment and create new costs. For these reasons, I knew I had to do something to make a grand impact on these women’s lives.
Michelle, the benefits provided to breast cancer patients by P4P are vastly different from—one might even say “superior” to—other groups. Tell us why.
First, we help women throughout treatment and for six months after treatment. Other organizations stop once care has been completed. Secondly, I personally meet with the individual and find out what they need the most help with—almost always, it’s rent or mortgage. Lastly, we don’t discriminate between holistic or traditional treatment—we assist both. I don’t know of any other organization that does that.
You’ve had growing interest from some of the biggest names in retail. Who are some of your partners?
Currently, our partners include the YWCA, Emily’s Interior, a business owned by Joseph Kupstas, The Botanist, and Camosse Masonry Supply, but to help more people, we need more businesses to join us in our efforts. It really does take a village to make such an impactful change.
And how can businesses and individual donors get involved?
They can email, call, or reach me any way that’s convenient for them. Donations can be made through our website, Facebook, and Instagram.
Can you tell us about some of your upcoming fundraising events?
We’re developing a few right now. One is a nationwide contest called Strike a Paws Photo Challenge, where you take a picture of your cat or dog and receive a personalized URL so you can send it to everyone to vote on and donate. We also are looking forward to our Drag Queen Meat Raffle, Our Comic Relief Night, and on June 11th, we had our 3rd annual golf tournament, where we raised $58,780.
What are some of the ways in which P4P grants are helping women?
When people think of assistance for women with breast cancer, their first thought is on the treatment itself, which is the most critical need. But what many don’t understand is that there are a great number of other expenses beyond that, and some women are faced with the choice between literally surviving or keeping a roof over their heads. For example, we work with a woman who has stage 3 metastatic cancer and stage 4 pancreatic cancer. We’ve been paying her mortgage for the past two years. For her, that’s impactful—it’s improving her quality of life.
Lastly, Michelle, where did the name come from?
I love dogs. They’re food for the soul. Dogs teach us that all that matters in life are relationships and unconditional love. Also, we rescue shelter dogs, have them trained, and gift them to the women we assist, if they choose.
Michelle holds a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Lesley College, a BS in psychology from Worcester State College, a certification in rape crisis counseling, and a certification in mediation and arbitration.
Founder/CEO: Pawsitively 4 Pink Inc.
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