Friday Focus: Windows of Strength

Undergoing an organ transplant can be a lengthy ordeal for both the recipient and his or her family. This week’s Friday Focus organization, Windows of Strength, Limited, seeks to relieve some of the financial stress for transplant recipients and their caregivers. We caught up with founder, Sandy Walker-Samler, who shared more information about the positive impact her organization has had on the lives of those in need.

Q: Tell us about your organization (who you serve, what you do, etc.) 

A: Windows of Strength is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization assisting organ transplant recipients and their caregivers with non-medical costs that are not covered by insurance, government programs or other organizations during their transplant process. These costs include transportation to and from follow-up doctor visits and testing, lodging for caregivers and family members during the recipient’s hospital stay, meals and other needs that may arise that do not fall under medical classification.

Q: What is your favorite “moment” (example of how your organization helped)? 

A: We have helped organ transplant recipients and their caregivers in many ways. Each time we provide assistance is considered a special moment. There is such a need for this type of support; we wish we could help more. We have aided in areas such as:

  • Providing gas cards for transportation needs to allow recipients to travel back and forth to their follow-up doctor appointments and tests.
  • Providing assistance with lodging and bus transportation for recipients who live out of their transplant clinic area when they must follow-up with doctor appointments and tests after their transplant surgery.
  • Helping to pay for parking fees for the recipients while at their doctor appointments and follow-up tests.
  • Helping with phone and utility bills, homeowner’s and car insurance for recipients in need of assistance due to their caregiver and/or themselves being unable to work after their transplant surgery.
  • Paying rent for the recipients in need of assistance due to the caregiver and/or recipient being on an unpaid leave of absence.
  • Donating to the Gift of Life Family House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Gift of Life Family House serves as a “home away from home” for transplant patients and their families by providing temporary, affordable lodging and supportive services to those who travel to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for transplant-related care.

These are the main areas where we have helped; however, there have been other miscellaneous requests that we have granted funding to help with financial assistance

Q: What is your biggest challenge? 

A:   Awareness, Funding, and Volunteers.

Windows of Strength was formed in 2010 and received 501(c)(3) status in 2011. Being a newly formed organization, we are faced with the challenge of growing awareness about the organization and our mission.   We started from the ground up and do not have any statewide chapters or a national umbrella that we fall under to assist with awareness or funding. We are not a “known” name throughout the community. Most of our funding comes from two major events we hold each year: a Mother/Daughter Tea and Fashion Show held the Sunday before Mother’s Day and a Holiday Gift Show held the Sunday before Thanksgiving. We have also held smaller fundraising events throughout the year which has helped in these areas.

In addition, most of the transplant clinics are located in the Baltimore and D.C. areas where there is a larger transplant community to draw from. Here in Southern Maryland, we don’t have transplant centers. Though there are many organ transplant recipients in the area, due to confidentiality and the sensitive nature of a transplant, we do not have the access as the larger organizations do to reach out to this community. With that being said, it has also been a big challenge to find volunteers in the Southern Maryland area to assist with the organization. We know the people are out there, but just need help in finding ways to connect to them.

We continue to make baby steps, however we are excited to report that this year we made huge progress in establishing great partnerships with transplant social workers from the Johns Hopkins Transplant Center and the University of Maryland Transplant Center. In order to verify a recipient’s need for assistance, a grant application must be submitted and signed off by their transplant social worker before submitting to Windows of Strength for funding. We have been able to provide assistance to many of the recipients from these centers, some of which are from the Southern Maryland area. 

Q: Are there any upcoming events?

A: Yes. Our Annual Holiday Gift Show – Sunday, November 23, 2014 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the North Beach Volunteer Fire Department, North Beach, Md.

We also sell very delicious tea and tasty creamed honey over the holidays. They can be purchased individually or in gift sets and baskets.

Other ongoing fund raising events:

  1. When you shop online at AmazonSmile and choose Windows of Strength as your charity organization, Amazon will donate a percentage to Windows of Strength.
  2. If you like jewelry, check out www.bravelets.com and search for Windows of Strength as your charity.   Bravelets™ will donate $10 from each jewelry purchase to Windows of Strength.
  3. We have partnered with Phoneraiser.com in collecting used/old cell phones and ink jet cartridges. The donation of these items help Windows of Strength raise money for organ transplant recipients and their caregivers, while at the same time protecting the environment by giving old technology new life and keeping it from polluting our landfills. The unwanted cell phones and ink cartridges are recycled in accordance with EPA regulations or refurbished and reused.     

Q: How can people get involved with your organization?  

A: Contact Windows of Strength by phone at 443-951-5125; email at mywish@windowsofstrength.org; or find more information online at www.windowsofstrength.org. Windows of Strength can also be found on Facebook and Pinterest. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 584, Chesapeake Beach, MD 20732.

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