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Throughout the year, Yolanda Diaz can be found volunteering at the Cancer Aid Resource & Education (CARE) office of Las Cruces. Since 2009 she has been volunteering full-time for different organizations and found that the need to help local cancer patients was very prevalent in our community. In 2013 Yolanda “Yoli” started operating CARE as a volunteer group with no salaries or payroll. Since then, CARE has helped over 465 cancer patients with over $530,000 of financial assistance for non-medical expenses.
At the CARE offices, they assist local cancer patients to obtain services or assistance to cope with their cancer diagnosis. CARE offers hands-on support for individuals and families dealing with cancer. Their care and support program helps give gas cards for to-and-from treatment travel, pay for utilities, groceries and nutritional supplements and more so that the patient can concentrate on treatment.
Only a year ago, Yoli was diagnosed with cancer herself, but this has not stopped her from volunteering. “Cancer does not discriminate,” Yoli said. “Any one of us can become a cancer patient. As a result of my experiences, I fully have knowledge that the need to help our local cancer patients exists in our community. At least now, I can say that I am doing something about addressing this need.”
For her loyalty, compassion and determination, Yoli has received the Deabel Legacy Society volunteer of the year award, which includes a $20,000 check from the Gerald H. Deabel endowment. The Deabel Legacy Society was founded in 2003 after Gerald H. Deabel (1934-2017) became intrigued with the Mesilla Valley Hospice and wanted to give back to the community. Thanks to the Deabel Legacy Society, a volunteer is chosen once a year by either Mesilla Valley Hospice, the Salvation Army or the Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico.
It has been said, “There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer. With it beats the spirit of service, generosity and compassion...and the health and well-being of our community, our country and our world.” It is people like Yoli Diaz who represent the heart of a volunteer and make our community a better place who deserve an award such as this.
Yoli Diaz’s comments on her award:
“It is a very special and great honor to receive the Gerald H. Deabel Foundation Volunteer of the Year Award! Gerald H. Deabel was a generous man who cared about our community. This is very evident in his incredible, impressive and inspiring giving legacy. The Gerald H. Deabel Foundation is increasing awareness and providing financial support for community health and social welfare benefits in southern New Mexico communities. The Gerald H. Deabel Foundation is also providing enhancement and improvement to the quality of life for the public in southern New Mexico communities through recognition of volunteer efforts. This is an amazing legacy! This award has made me reflect on all my many years of volunteer service, since 2009. It has also made me think of every volunteer, every individual, business and organization who has donated to CARE to improve the lives of cancer patients in our community. Gerald H. Deabel has touched my heart and soul as my work has to help cancer patients. My work can be an inspiring journey to meet and help survivors in cancer treatment, but it can also include hardship and loss. Gerald H. Deabel’s concern and care for our community and his award have come full circle to me, like a ‘button.’ I feel gratitude of where I began in this work, where I am now...I am a cancer survivor and I stand with survivors we help…and what I need to do to keep going. I would like to thank our volunteer, Nancy J. Sipes, for nominating me, Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, everyone who has supported CARE and all the representatives of the Gerald H. Deabel Foundation. And, most of all, I thank Gerald H. Deabel for being a community champion who will live forever in all of our hearts because all of our lives mattered to him!”
Diaz provided this update on CARE’s impact: 530 patients helped, $662,508 in financial assistance provided.