Last week, After Breast Cancer Diagnosis (ABCD), the Milwaukee-based nonprofit that bought the remains of the bankrupt Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization last year, entered the second stage of its gradual return to 24/7 services provided by volunteer Helpline mentors.
“This wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Y-ME’s former staff and volunteers,” ABCD Executive Director Ginny Finn said in a telephone interview, noting that the national expansion was expedited by the organization's discovery of disposable prepaid cellphones.
"ABCD's mentors have always worked out of our office, but providing multi-state service with a larger group of volunteers made it necessary to allow mentors to work wherever they live."
Finn explained that to integrate Y-ME's former hotline number into ABCD's helpline service (800-977-4121), ABCD was developing a cloud-based infrastructure that would route calls, but decided to use prepaid cell phones as an interim step with calls coming into headquarters relayed manually to appropriate mentors.
The Y-ME number is no longer being publicized, but it will work now for those who may not have known that it was disconnected by the Board of the now-defunct breast cancer group.
And the flexibility and cost-effectiveness of the portable cells worked out so well that ABCD has decided to keep them after the cloud service goes into effect.
Finn said that one volunteer on call brought her phone on vacation and was able to continue serving callers away from home.
Mentors currently provide immediate support from 9 am to 5 pm CT, Monday through Friday, but longer days and weekend hours will continue expanding until the end of the year when the Helpline is expected to operate 24/7.
Finn added that its mentor-matching service increased 52 percent from 2012 compared with the previous year and that since January, calls have been received from 15 states in addition to Wisconsin, its fastest out-of-state growth in 14 years.
Also key to ABCD’s expansion, she said, has been the cooperation of other breast cancer organizations.