In speaking with Jacquie Lee about the Donna M. Saunders Foundation (DMSF), the conviction in her voice and her determination are clear. The foundation, named after a college friend who lost her life in a battle with breast cancer, was based on a promise made to Donna before she passed: “Promise me that you’ll help me help those who are in need,” she said. And that is exactly what her friends have done: establish an organization that not only provides awareness, but also financial support to those who are undergoing breast cancer treatment.
Despite her remarkable success, Jacquie has never forgotten where she came from. In her twenty-year tenure as a successful business executive, she has had many significant accomplishments. From brokering multi-million-dollar deals, such as Ciroc vodka and Sean "Diddy" Combs alliance, to working at LaFace Records on the Olympic album, to Coca Cola on its innovation team, her time at companies such as Sony, Credit Suisse, and Moët Hennessy speaks for itself. While she now focuses her attention on education and countering popular trends in an effort to “make academia cool and fun,” she has never lost sight of the importance of taking “care of her backyard.” Meaning she remembers those around her and those who helped her get to where she is. That is what makes the story of Donna Saunders so important to her.
As Donna underwent therapy, she made a startling discovery: battling the disease was only part of the difficulty, dealing with the financial implications was the other. Many women lose everything while undergoing treatment. For some, making the difficult decision between purchasing food and paying vital utilities, mortgage and rent has become the norm.
In fact, due to the impact of COVID-19, the number of women in need of assistance has skyrocketed. “Since the pandemic, there are three times more women asking for help,” she said, which is depleting their funds faster than they can replenish them. They have noticed that many of the women are forced to move back in with family members because, in addition to needing help to recuperate, they also can no longer afford the basics like rent, utilities, and food.
Like most non profits, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on their fundraising efforts.
The foundation provides everything from grocery gift cards, to chemo kits to specialty bras needed post surgery.
Jacquie is in the midst of a huge fundraising effort to help their foundation continue to provide these services to women in our communities. Jaquie, a marketing expert, is quick to point out that this is not a one-sided relationship. In return, organizations and individuals that contribute can expect more than a simple tax write-off, they can expect myriad other benefits. The founders of DMSF are experienced corporate professionals with keen eyes for marketing and brand building. With the experts they have on the board, they understand how to leverage the foundation, its story, and its events for the benefit and promotion of any prospective contributors.
The process of applying for assistance is easy. Simply visit the company’s website, fill out the form, and you will receive a response from one of the board members, usually within 72 hours. After this, a determination is made regarding the person’s needs and the degree to which the foundation may be able to assist financially. We’ve provided financial and in-kind donations to an estimated 75+ women per year for the last 10 years.
“We don’t judge the need and urgency,” Jacquie said, “we simply look at what we have available to help them financially. While we would like to take care of people for a year, if we can help someone for at least the 12 weeks of their chemo treatment, that would be the ideal vision. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have those financial resources up to par at the moment.”
“I’ve spent most of my time imagining the possibilities ,” she said. “All my life since I was a kid, I knew that if I could not live out my dreams, that I’d be miserable. I knew that I needed to be of service and be of impact.” And that is exactly what she and her foundation are doing, just ask the many women whose lives have been touched by their generosity.
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