03/31/10 — These angels provide more than pennies

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These angels provide more than pennies

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 31, 2010 1:46 PM

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Pennies from Angels recently made a donation of 24 boxes of new socks, underclothes and T-shirts for boys and girls in grades one through 12 in Wayne County Public Schools. From left are volunteers Marjorie Jackson and Helen Westbrook, along with Donna Best, social worker in WCPS, and Helen Harwood, patient advocate at Southeastern Oncology and founder of Pennies from Angels.

When Helen Harwood sees a need, her natural inclination is to respond.

Ideally, she'd like to help everyone she can.

As patient advocate at Southeastern Medical Oncology Center, it's part of her daily job. She assists patients with rent, food, whatever needs they may have.

"I had a patient come in recently and needed $9 to pay for three pills," she said. "For a lot of us, that's lunch for one day. ... Even if they have got good insurance, there's a lot of things that aren't covered. When you find someone that needs $9 to get pain medication, that's where I want to be, to help these patients."

Her compassion was parlayed into the development of Pennies from Angels, a nonprofit effort responding to a variety of needs in the community.

Pennies from Angels started around 1993, created in memory of her sister and brother-in-law, who were killed in an automobile accident. Both were in their 20s, she said.

"To make sense of their death, I started this," she explained. My goal is to make something good out of something bad."

The efforts have spilled over into other areas.

Recently, she received an overstock of items that she turned into a donation to Wayne County Public Schools.

"We're limited in space," she said. "I knew the social workers in schools and wanted to make sure (the items) go where they need to go."

She wound up giving away 24 boxes of underclothes, T-shirts and socks for boys and girls in first through 12th grade.

"I have given some to (the social workers) before but never the volume like this," she said. "I thought, they're covering a whole county. They could use some help."

One hundred percent of donations -- financial as well as tangible items -- go to help others. Ms. Harwood does not accept a salary or set aside any money for the organization.

She simply wants to be in place to respond whenever and wherever there's an opportunity.

"If there's a need and if somebody has a house fire, I like to be able to go in and give them something," she said. "When there are other needs in the community, I want to be able to help.

"I have been fortunate to be able to get lots of items. At Southeastern Oncology, we have a shop where we have wigs, bras, prosthetics and scarves. Those are items we could really use to give away -- if people want to donate them -- scarves and hats, because sometimes patients don't want to wear a wig but would wear a scarf or hat."

Mrs. Harwood said she is appreciative of whatever people are willing to contribute, with a preference for items that are new or in good condition.

For more information on Pennies From Angels, call 580-0000. Donations can also be mailed to 203 Cox Blvd., Goldsboro, NC 27530.