Komen Ozark

Komen Ozark

Please welcome Lauren Marquette today – she is the Executive Director of Susan G. Komen – Ozark Affiliate.

Can you share a little bit about your background – where you went to school, where you grew up?

Born and raised in Van Buren, Arkansas I moved to Fayetteville for college and fell in love with the city.  An avid reader, I received my undergraduate in English.  Not sure exactly what I wanted to do with my English degree, I decided to follow my passion and get my Masters Degree in Social Work.  My first internship in graduate school was at the Susan G. Komen-Ozark Affiliate and now I am the Executive Director.  I’m loving life with my husband and our three fur kids.  (Riley the dog and Feliz and Darcy the cats.)

Can you share about your current work? What is the mission of your organization?

I am the Executive Director of Komen Ozark.  Susan G. Komen is a National organization founded over a promise between two sisters.  In 1980, Nancy G. Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan, that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever.  In 1982, that promise became the Susan G. Komen organization and the beginning of a global movement.  What was started with $200 and a shoebox full of potential donor names has now grown into the world’s largest nonprofit source of funding for the fight against breast cancer.  In 1998,with the help of a few local women, Komen Ozark was created in Northwest Arkansas to address the need of local women and has since expanded to include ten counties.  (Benton, Boone, Carroll, Crawford, Madison, Newton, Sebastian and Washington counties in Arkansas and Stone and Taney counties in Missouri.)

What led you to want to become involved with Susan G. Komen?

When I was in Graduate School I was a Research Assistant to Deborah Hall who, at the time, was doing research on the importance of social support for cancer patients.  Unfortunately, Deborah lost her own battle with breast cancer.  My field instructor and mentor in my graduate program, Donna Scoppa also lost her battle to breast cancer a few years after I graduated.  I realized how many local women were affected and knew I wanted to work to do something about it.  I love the local, grassroots feel of the mission work at Komen Ozark.  We focus on making sure that ALL women have access to care and a woman’s zip code doesn’t determine whether or not they lived or died.  At Komen, the entire cycle of a breast cancer journey is addressed, from prevention, education, screening, diagnosis, treatment, post-treatment and then research to finding the cures.

We know you have had some PR coverage – can you share a few examples?

I was featured in the CitiScapes magazine “Single in the City” issue, which is how I met my husband.  In 2011 when I was 30, I had the honor of being recognized as the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s “40 under 40.” Governor Beebe appointed me to the State of Arkansas Social Work Licensing Board in 2013, where I am currently serving my first term as Vice Chair.

Can you share any challenges or setbacks you have faced in this role?

When you work for a breast cancer organization, you meet so many women who have gone through or are still going through a very difficult time in their lives.  Unfortunately in our line of work, we have grown to know and love some of our breast cancer survivors who eventually lost their lives to the very disease that we are working so hard to fight.  It is difficult.  Our former Executive Director, Mary Alfrey was one of these women.  Soon after starting as the director at Komen Ozark, Mary was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer.  A few weeks before our Race for the Cure in 2015, she was re-diagnosed and the prognosis was not good.  Three days after our race, Mary lost her life.  It was a very difficult time for the Komen Ozark family.  We had to pick ourselves back up and keep doing this needed work to make sure that women received access to quality care and information.  We have a renewed sense of purpose because we continue to work hard so another family will not have to go through losing a loved one to breast cancer.

We know that is difficult! What about some success stories from this line of work?

At Komen Ozark we grant out money to local organizations to do work specific to breast health that we have identified as a top priority through local research and assessment.  We often hear about women who are serviced by numerous grantees and these multiple programs are keeping women from falling through the cracks in the healthcare system.  We rely on getting to know other local organizations and people so we can call on them to help serve our women with other services that may be outside of our parameters.  Networking is key.

What do you want our audience to know about Komen Ozark?

Komen Ozark is more than just a race.  The Race for the Cure is our signature event, but the purpose is for us to put as much money as possible back into our mission of saving lives and ending breast cancer forever.  Of the money raised at our local affiliate, 75% of what is raised stays in our local community and the additional 25% goes to our National Research program to find the cures.  Since 1998, Komen Ozark has granted over $9.5 million to local organizations in our ten county service area and has given nearly $3 million to research.  A common misconception is that we are a national organization so the money goes into the national office.  That is not the case.  We are a local organization and money raised stays locally.  That’s why I am proud and passionate about our mission and the work we do.

What is the best piece of entrepreneurial/business advice that you would like to share?

It is so rewarding to work for a non-profit, but the workload is high and there is never enough money.  That is why volunteers and our supporters are so important.  We are shifting our focus to really concentrate on our relationships; whether it is relationships with our donors, sponsors, grantees and/or survivors.  It is so important to cultivate advocates for your cause and for those advocates to know what their impact is and that they are important.  You can never be too thankful and grateful!

How can our audience get involved with Komen Ozark?

We need you!  Komen Ozark has a small staff, but a huge mission and we need all the help we can get!  In our local service area, two families will have to say goodbye to a loved one each week.  The need is real and these women are more than just a statistic.  They are our mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, nieces and friends.  From volunteering to serve on a committee for one of our many events, participating in an event, becoming a donor, sharing our message through social media or educating yourself and your loved ones about breast cancer-we need you!

Are there any specific events to be involved in this year?

The 18th annual Komen Ozark Race for the Cure will be Saturday, April 30 at the Pinnacle Hills Promenade Mall in Rogers, Arkansas.  You can run our competitive 10K or 5K, run or walk in our untimed 5K, walk in our 1K Fun Walk, register you and your dog to participate in the Bark for the Cure, visit our Kids for the Cure area and if you are a survivor, attend our Survivor Breakfast and take part in our Survivor Parade.  If you are not a survivor, make sure you don’t miss cheering on our survivors during the survivor parade!  If you can’t attend the event or hate getting up early on a Saturday morning, that’s not a problem!  You can register for Sleep in for the Cure and we will mail your shirt to you.  Visit www.komenozark.org to register and to start your fundraising today.

How can our audience get in touch with you?

For more information about Komen Ozark, please visit our website at www.komenozark.org or call (479) 750-7465.  The Komen Ozark office is located at 403 West Maple in Springdale, Arkansas.

To contact Lauren Marquette, call (479) 750-7465 or email lauren@komenozark.org.




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