Since 1978, the Seven County Kidney Fund has supplied financial assistance to dialysis patients with end-stage renal disease from 46 counties in central and southern Illinois. But the charity is having a rough time because of the economy.
The non-profit 501(c)(3) organization was started when social workers in what was then a dialysis unit operated in a hospital, noticed some of the patients had financial hardships other sources couldn’t address.
Shripra Somani, one of the original social workers at the dialysis unit, said patients started the charity, ran the charity and dispensed the funds. “It took about three years for it to get its IRS non-profit status. It was a very closely knit group because it was run by the patients,” she said.
Chronic dialysis patients need treatment three times a week for four hours at a time. When money got tight, Somani said, patients would cut back on their dialysis to save gas money — to the detriment of their health. They would also cut corners and not buy necessary medication or cut back on their meals.
Charlene Vollmer, who is president of the SCKF now, said that’s still happening. “Times are different now, and there is a bigger need. Patients shouldn’t have to make a decision between eating and dialysis or medication and dialysis, but sadly, they do.”
Originally the National Kidney Foundation was an organization local patients could turn to, Somani said, but the focus of that agency changed and local patients wanted an organization they could donate to that would keep the money in this area.
Last year, according to Roy Maxfield, treasurer of the SCKF, about 170 dialysis patients received some type of assistance from the organization. Maxfield, who was undergoing dialysis until he received a kidney transplant, said the assistance went to patients from Robinson to Macomb and Champaign to Carlinville.
“People come long distances for dialysis. We are talking more than four hours a day for three days each week. The biggest need is for transportation costs. A lot of dialysis patients can’t work, and the 30-, 40- or 60-mile round trip takes time and money. The money is designed to be a stopgap,” Maxfield said.
Recommendations come from the social workers who work with the patients, he and Vollmer said, because they are the ones who see the need firsthand.
If a patient is in Springfield and needs transportation help, Maxfield said, that could come in the form of bus passes or a stipend for gas money.
“Last year we were down to nickels and dimes, and we received a $25,000 donation from a former patient,” he said. Vollmer and Somani said that will carry the fund for awhile, but the need continues to grow and donations as well as help in the form of fundraising work is shrinking.
“There are some real hardship cases out there,” Maxfield said. “We don’t have the staff to do full-blown fundraising. We don’t have a website. It’s a close program because there it’s run by patients or former patients, but that’s the very thing that doesn’t help us with fundraising.”
Some money comes from small fundraisers as well as memorials and corporate sponsors. An annual membership costs $1 or a lifetime membership is $20. But you don’t have to be a member of the SCKF to get funds, Maxfield emphasized.
For more information on the Seven County Kidney Fund or to donate fundraising or website help, contact Roy Maxfield at 498-9987, firstname.lastname@example.org
Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:
Seven County Kidney Fund
701 N. First St.
Springfield, IL 62781-0001
Kathleen Ostrander can be reached at 747-1296.