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Cheerful heart offers loving care, support for cancer patients

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News from Cheerful Heart 

Marshall and Betty Bjork and Chip Kurzenbaum were honored Sunday evening at a Cheerful Heart volunteer appreciation dinner for giving 17 years of time and care to cancer patients in Lake County. The Cheerful Heart board of directors fed and thanked volunteers on Oct. 13 at the Mission Bay Clubhouse. 

The Bjorks and Chip began volunteering with Cheerful Heart in 2002. Chip and Marshall served on the board of directors, and Betty wrote thank you notes and served soup at the Polson Oncology Clinic. She continues serving soup today. 

Marshall, as board chairperson, provided administrative direction and he and Chip helped the charity maintain solid financial footing. Marshall transported patients, used his carpenter skills to build stools for shorter oncology patients and a ramp for a patient’s home. He provided manual labor for the garage sales held between 2003 and 2008 that raised $25,000 for Cheerful Heart. He was called throughout the year to pick up items as folks cleaned out their stuff. He hauled items to his storage facility, then moved them again to the sale and often provided delivery after the sale. Friends and business associates received friendly requests for donations or whatever Cheerful Heart needed. 

Chip, then owner of Gull Printing and Signs, housed the Cheerful Heart “office” in his basement, handled printing needs and also moved garage sale items. He and Marshall helped spread the word about Cheerful Heart by giving presentations to organizations. 

All board members have a close relationship with cancer, either as a patient or through a loved one. Chip’s mother died of cancer, and now another member of his family has cancer. He is transporting his dog, Gander, to chemo treatments in Missoula. Chip says Gander will need treatments for the rest of his life. 

Cheerful Heart has 20 current volunteers. On Tuesdays, volunteers serve soup at the oncology clinics in Polson and Ronan. They provide transportation and often are a second set of ears at a doctor’s appointment. Patient needs vary and Cheerful Heart volunteer coordinator Barbara Morin connects with volunteers who can provide the service requested. Services can include meal preparation, running errands, walking the dog, etc. A Polson Beta group, Xi Alpha Gamma, is currently offering to provide housecleaning for cancer patients. 

Cheerful Touch is another Cheerful Heart service offered to cancer patients. This personal care is offered in the form of massages, skin, nail and hair care, at no charge to the patient. Local cosmetologists and massage therapists work with the Cheerful Touch program. Patients should consult with their doctors before using these services. Massage therapists may be able to travel to the patient’s home if necessary. 

Cheerful Touch originated in 2012, and a $1,500 grant from the Greater Polson Community Foundation helped the charity get the new program started. In 2019, another GPCF grant for $500 will help Cheerful Heart infuse new energy into the program. 

Cheerful Heart also sponsors a Cancer Support Group that meets on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. The next meeting, Oct. 28, will be held at the Owen’s Room at St. Joseph Medical Center, from noon to 1 p.m. The group welcomes those recently diagnosed, those undergoing treatment, cancer survivors, and/or family members. The aim is to provide a safe place for members to share, learn, support, and encourage members after a cancer diagnosis; and, to conquer the fear in themselves and others. Confidentiality is practiced, anything spoken in the group stays with the group. 

Gatherings are informal allowing folks to drop-in when schedules and life permits. Folks can bring a brown-bag lunch. Cheerful Heart relies on donations from individuals, organizations and grants to cover operating expenses. Memorials are an important way to support the nonprofit. Expenses include oncology soup and assorted refreshments, hats/turbans and wigs, gas vouchers and other patient needs. 

Questions can be directed to Cheerful Heart message line at 406-883-3070. Please leave the best time and day to receive a return call. Check out the Cheerful Heart web site at or email Mailing address is Cheerful Heart, P.O. Box 688, Polson, MT 59860. 


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