Five highly respected local cancer support nonprofits —American Cancer Society (ACS), Desert Cancer Foundation, Gilda’s Desert Cities, Pendleton Foundation, and Susan G. Komen Inland Empire —are dedicated to serving all those in the Coachella Valley whose lives have been impacted by cancer. They understand that patients as well as their families will need a great deal of support as they embark on the journey that starts when someone hears those three dreaded words, “You have cancer.”

But these dedicated nonprofits realize that not everyone is aware of the numerous no-cost services available to them – emotional, educational and social support, funding for medical care, and monies to pay for essentials like gas and groceries while undergoing cancer treatment, to name just a few. Nor do people always know how to access these services.

That’s why ACS, Desert Cancer, Gilda’s, Pendleton, and Susan G. Komen firmly believe they are “Better Together for Community,” and have formed a powerful collaborative by that name.

Spearheaded by Gilda’s Club President and CEO Maria Elena Geyer, “Better Together for Community” last year applied for—and was awarded—a $30,000 Mental Health Initiative Grant from the Regional Access Project (RAP). The grant’s purpose: to help the collaborating organizations increase awareness of mental health concerns at various stages of cancer. It funds a public awareness and information-sharing project, outreach to several target populations, and creation of new and improved communications tools for the outreach efforts.

The first population group the collaborators are targeting is eastern Riverside County residents who are most likely to require the emotional (mental health) support services provided by Gilda’s Club: those currently impacted by cancer or who are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer, with a focus on un- or under-insured individuals and older adults. The second population group includes African-American and Hispanic residents impacted by cancer, as these groups have high cancer rates but are often underserved.

Among the communication tools that have been developed and widely distributed are culturally sensitive written materials in English and Spanish that clearly present information about all of the collaborating agencies’ services. A redesigned Gilda’s website also gives access information. And in the near future, if a pending grant comes through, it will be possible for English-language educational talks to be simultaneously translated and transmitted to Spanish-speaking audience members.

Another important aspect of the project is community awareness events. The first two, in late 2015 and early 2016, were co-sponsored by the City of La Quinta and took place on La Quinta’s Civic Center campus. In the project’s second phase, Better Together outreach events are also planned in somewhat isolated and/or low-income communities such as Desert Highland in Palm Springs and in the East Coachella Valley communities of Coachella, Mecca, Thermal and Oasis.

You don’t have to face cancer alone, say “Better Together for Community” partners, and already, they are helping ensure that everyone on the cancer journey in the Coachella Valley is well served.

Gail Bardin is Clinical Director at Gilda’s Desert Cities. For more information contact Gilda’s Club at (760) 770.5678 or visit

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