Susie Mindell calls it “the Sentimental Journey,” referencing the classic Doris Day hit of the World War II era.
“It’s a combination of an anniversary celebration and a donor celebration,” the Pikesville resident says of the 60th anniversary of the Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation, named in memory of her mother-in-law. “Most of the women involved in the organization today didn’t know Mildred personally but work hard to raise money for cancer because everyone knows someone affected by the disease. Those women who did know her personally were influenced by her innate nature to give to her community.”
The foundation’s 60th anniversary luncheon, which costs $60 per person, will take place on Oct. 29 at 11 a.m. at Martin’s Valley Mansion, 594 Cranbrook Road in Cockeysville. It will honor the foundation’s past presidents as well as its 22 original charter members, 15 of whom are living.
There also will be a screening of a new documentary produced by Athenaeum Films featuring foundation members as well as beneficiaries of its endeavors over the past 60 years.
“From its inception, the [foundation’s] active and unselfish membership has continued to work tirelessly to increase cancer awareness, to provide services to improve the quality of life for cancer patients and to support efforts to find a cure for cancer,” says Susie Mindell.
Born in 1919, Mildred Mindell grew up in the Forest Park section of Northwest Baltimore. She attended Western High School and was involved in the Phi Delta Sorority, a sisterhood of high school-age students who gathered for social and philanthropic events.
After graduating from high school, Mindell became an adviser for the sorority and was known to the sorority girls as “Millie.” They, in turn, were known as “Millie’s Girls.”
“Mildred loved being with all of us in the sorority and loved that we would have a good time,” recalls Selma Schlenoff, a member of the Phi Delta Sorority, a charter member of the foundation and its first president. “But she also trained us to give back to the community. She was a teacher and a mentor to all of us.”
On Sept. 8, 1957, Mindell died at the age of 38 from breast cancer, leaving behind a husband and son. After her death, “Millie’s Girls” knew they wanted to carry on her legacy of philanthropy and community service.
“When Mildred passed away, we asked her family if we could start a foundation in her honor,” says Sandra Pollinger, another charter member. “They said yes, as long as we made it a foundation that looked for a cure for cancer, the disease that took her life. That’s how the foundation came to be.”
Says Susie Mindell: “This is an organization that was created by those young women Mildred inspired. Everything these women have done is because Mildred taught them to be philanthropic.”
Since its founding, the foundation has donated more than $5 million to medical centers and other cancer treatment and research organizations throughout the Baltimore-Washington corridor and in Israel. There are currently approximately 100 active members in the organization, and 100 percent of the proceeds raised in the past 60 years have gone to direct patient aid, research, rehabilitation and education, according to foundation members.
“No matter what we do, the money goes to help people suffering from cancer,” says Jodie Silver, the foundation’s vice president. “We are a truly not-for-profit organization made up of all volunteers who are just trying to help others.”
Over the years, the foundation has sent young children with cancer to summer camps and supported Helping Hands, a program overseen by Mercy Medical Center that provides free wigs to chemotherapy patients.
“It was an amazing feeling to be able to provide these women with hair, which was something they were missing most,” says Ronnie Gold, a Helping Hands volunteer. “It was really a mitzvah.”
For Mildred Mindell’s, son, Morton, who will attend the luncheon, there is no better way to keep his mother’s memory alive than the foundation’s body of work.
“This foundation was the absolute only way to memorialize my mother and to carry on her legacy,” he says. “I am proud that for her brief time on this earth, she was able to instill the importance of giving in me and in so many young women, and that the women carried on what she would have wanted to carry on.
“I will always be humbled to know this organization existed and to know what these women have accomplished,” he says. “Sixty years is a long time.”
Top photo: Among the members of the Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation are Selma Schlenoff, Helene Levine, Elaine Finkelstein, Sandra Pollinger and Carol Pondfield (left to right).
Aliza Friedlander is a Baltimore-based freelance writer
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