The growing ‘Circle of Love’

The ripple created from a small pebble thrown into a pond expands ever onward. It is said that the gentle flap of a butterfly’s wings and the movement of air can affect weather across the world. Known as the butterfly effect, small changes in seemingly unrelated things can eventually modify a large and complex system. Such a chain of events with many variables may be as complex as quantum physics, but in human relations and conditions it can be as simple as one kind act leading to other acts of love and service, increasing exponentially with countless people comforted and uplifted. This phenomenon easily comes to mind when seeing the work of “The Circle of Love,” a large group of dedicated volunteers who act as a support group for cancer patients primarily throughout Chautauqua County, but also Erie, Alleghany, and Cattaraugus counties.

The beginning of The Circle of Love the small pebble thrown into the pond that started the ripple, goes back nearly 23 years ago to 1990 when Josie Costa Christopher, an LPN at Brooks Hospital, was asked by Dr. Damania, a local oncologist, to provide services for his post mastectomy patients with breast prosthesis, wigs, and turbans. Working out of his office for the first few years, Josie established the first cancer support group in the local area. She then continued this work at The Care Center, Inc., located on Lucas Avenue in Dunkirk. In the later 90s, while still working there, Josie opened the Christopher Wellness Center, Inc. in the former Cardinal Mindszenty High School Rectory. Its goal was to provide additional comfort and support services for patients and their friends. Josie and her growing volunteer “angels” endeavored to promote healing, wellness, and acceptance through expanded support groups, seminars, and workshops of creative arts such as music, painting, and writing. In the words of Josie, “It gave a safe, nurturing, caring, and loving environment for individuals with cancer and their caregivers, in order to lessen the burden of cancer. It was dedicated to helping those seeking physical, emotional, and spiritual healing in the face of their illness.”

The need for comfort and support continues, so of course Josie and the growing Circle of Love volunteers hold steadfast to their mission. Although the location had to be changed from the Mindszenty building, the organization continued their work at The Care Center with post mastectomy services and in Josie’s home for many years on Washington Avenue. Beautiful gardens and surroundings with inspirational murals offered peace and tranquility, and so it goes on today on Central Avenue, Josie’s newest home since November of last year and yet on-going at the Care Center. St. Vincent’s of Dunkirk has also offered meeting space that will be accessed in the near future. Other expanded support includes pillows and prayer shawls. Providing physical comfort during such times as chemotherapy, a spiritual dimension is also met because prayers are offered on behalf of the future recipient as each one is knitted or crocheted. The shawls are also blessed when completed and before they are given.

Thanks to Josie and The Circle of Love, there is comprehensive support for cancer patients and their families. It would be easy to do nothing because cancer is such a big problem. How can just one person or a few people make any real impact? However, think about the ripple and butterfly effects. There is also what Stephen Covey calls the Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. Within the Circle of Concern are generally overwhelming things over which we have little control. Within the Circle of Influence are things for which we do have control. Covey says we need to focus our energy on the latter; on issues where we can make a difference. In so doing, we can actually expand this circle over time, especially when it is a collective effort. For example, we live in a polluted environment and cannot eradicate it, but we can recycle our plastic. There is great suffering and disease in the world that we cannot cure, but we can make healthy decisions for ourselves and we can comfort and give service to those in need in our own community.

We see from The Circle of Love that we, too, can ask, “What can I do to change or improve something for the better?” As the saying goes, “We are either part of the problem or solution.” Call 366-0698 to volunteer for the Circle of Love or to inquire about services. They can always use help to sew turbans and crochet shawls. They also greatly appreciate monetary donations to help defray costs of services, as well as one-time projects such as completing the deck by the Sons of Liberty Motorcycle Riding Club as shown in the photo. Make it a good week and act on good ideas.

Remember to mark your calendars for Aug. 17 and 18. The Dunkirk Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum is hosting the “Battle of Lighthouse Point” which will include Civil War battle scenarios and a living history camp with firing demonstrations and period fife and drum music. Tickets are for a nominal fee that supports both the Lighthouse Museum and Dunkirk Historical Society.

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