By SUZANNE MOORE News Editor
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Sister Debbie Blow is over the moon about a $10,000 grant that will buy medicines for the poor in Nicaragua, even as she awaits word on whether she is cancer-free.
The executive director of North Country Mission of Hope couldn’t help but count her blessings before and since the recent surgery that removed a cancerous lesion on her left breast.
“You can go to a doctor,” she said she told herself as she anticipated the procedure. “You can get the medication you need.
“There are days,” she added, “when I have a hard time finding words for all the blessings we have” in the United States.
Meanwhile, Mission of Hope efforts continue on track.
Wednesday night, the Leadership Team selected the volunteers who will travel to Nicaragua next February and will soon start training for the trip.
In Nicaragua, mission administrator Mauricio Flores continues distributing medical equipment and other items sent from Plattsburgh in a shipping container in late summer.
Its contents included dental equipment, exam tables, school desks and school supplies assigned to sites assisted by Mission of Hope.
In her office at Seton Catholic Central School, Blow is selling tickets (six for $5) for a raffle with cash prizes ranging between $100 and $500, with the money going to support elderly nuns of the Sisters of the Holy Cross. Mission of Hope partners with the order helping children in Haiti.
This week, the mission mailed out sponsorship renewal packets to the 500 benefactors of Nicaraguan schoolchildren; the deadline to pay the annual $140 per child is Nov. 11.
Collection is continuing of needed items, among them adult-incontinence undergarments, children’s vitamins, over-the-counter medications and school notebooks.
Blow was excited to report Seton Catholic donated nine garbage bags of soccer balls and that much-needed nebulizers have been contributed and are already packed for shipment.
The mission’s Material Management Coordinator Jimmy Dumont is encouraging folks to help out by participating in the Monday packing nights at the mission’s storage facility, MOHtown, on Sharron Avenue in Plattsburgh. The sessions are 6 to 8 p.m. the first Monday of the month, starting Oct. 7.
Volunteers can pitch in with packing on Wednesday mornings, too.
CONRAD HILTON GRANT
And then there’s the $10,000 Conrad Hilton Foundation grant, applied for by Leadership Team member Bill Murray.
The funds, Blow said, can be used for medicines and medical equipment and supplies.
The cost of medication has increased tremendously in Nicaragua over the past six months, she said, and the grant will help Mission of Hope meet this year’s need.
“The timing couldn’t be better,” she said.
This particular grant touched Blow’s heart in a special way, as the foundation only makes it available to organizations that have a religious role to their mission.
Her order, the Dominican Sisters of Hope, had to write letters supporting that, Blow said.
“I’m really grateful to my congregation.”
The Plattsburgh-based Mission of Hope just scratches the surface as it is with medical care and even assisting with basic needs, Blow said.
A few weeks ago, she got word from Nicaragua that two children served by Mission of Hope programs were extremely malnourished; one had even been hospitalized.
Both have sponsors who pay for their schooling, but food is not included in the $140 cost per student per year.
Blow reached their benefactors, who sent money to pay for nutritional supplements and medical care for the boy and girl.
Time and time again, supporters of the work the mission does step up when crisis strikes.
Hunger is an ongoing one, though, Blow said.
Mission of Hope’s Children Feeding Children program provides meals for some students at two schools, in preschool through second grade, but lacks the funds to expand it further.
So malnutrition is common regardless of whether a student’s tuition is paid.
“These children don’t get food if there’s no food at home,” Blow said.
Sponsors can sign up to feed a child for a year with a $75 donation — the money goes to the family and is used for food and nutritional supplements such as Ensure.
“We monitor all that,” Blow said.
PREVIOUS BREAST CANCER
Blow, 60, has lessened her usual hectic schedule a bit as she recovers from the surgery. She will find out Tuesday whether it removed all the cancer, which was identified as basal cell carcinoma.
If so, she will need no further treatment, she said.
She discovered the lesion several months ago.
“I should have had it seen to immediately, but I didn’t,” she said.
Then it started bleeding.
Blow’s physician believes the cancer was likely caused by radiation treatment she had 15 years ago for breast cancer, the same year Mission of Hope came to life.
In her News & Notes, Blow told mission volunteers and supporters about her surgery with positive effect.
“It has opened up avenues for other people to share what they’re going through,” she said.
Blow said she’s at peace about whatever the test results show.
“My mission,” she said, “is not finished.”
Email Suzanne Moore:firstname.lastname@example.orgHOW TO HELP Learn more about North Country Mission of Hope at ncmissionofhope.org. Reach Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow at 561-2599. Checks may be mailed to Mission of Hope, P.O. Box 2522, Plattsburgh NY 12901.