Sandy-damaged Ocean Grove cancer care refuge rebuilds and reopens
"From a mission to a movement." That's how co-founder Michele Gannon describes the feeling behind Mary's Place by the Sea, the Ocean Grove refuge for female oncology patients that just opened the doors to its new, expanded grounds.
Women who enter the portals at 22 Main Avenue take advantage of oncolgy massages, nutrition education, psychotherapy, Reiki, guided meditation and yoga. There is no charge to cancer patients who stay one, two or three days.
For Gannon, the President, and co-founder and Vice-President Maria McKeon, the three-story, 10-bedroom expanse is a vision fully realized.
They started in 2009 with two rented rooms in a bed and breakfast in the shorefront enclave, and later expanded to a four-bedroom home that they also rented.
When Superstorm Sandy sent tons of water crashing into the shorefront in 2012, they lost their offices among the significant damage that the home endured.
With no government funding, Gannon and McKeon set about gathering private donations, aiming for a competely new structure with room for the organization's continued growth.
They caught Governor Chris Christie's attention, and merited a special stop by the Governor on his return to Ocean Grove in 2014 for storm recovery assessment.
The new headquarters, built from the ground up, also has two spas, a sanctuary, private bathrooms, and lots of porch space.
McKeon extols the "motherly feeling" that prevails over Mary's Place. "We are there for them, whatever they need," she said. "I often tell people, 'You're not your cancer, you are who you are. What's your name?'"
Staffers say that more than 40 women have found care in the three-story, 10-bedroom center since the May 31 ribbon-cutting. More than 5,000 women have sought services at Mary's Place since its founding.
In presenting the founders with an award at the opening, Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley expressed optimism that Mary's Place will serve for "time and time, decade after decade, person after person."
To learn more about services, hours of operation, and admissions, visit the Mary's Place web page, send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 732-455-5344. You'll also find it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.