Annual tea helps provide free mammograms for women

Published 12:20 am Sunday, September 17, 2017


NATCHEZ — Last year Joyce Washingon Ivery drew 55 attendees to her annual Hats and Gloves breast cancer fundraiser, but on Sept. 24, she hopes to double that number.

The fundraiser, which begins at 3 p.m. at the Natchez Grand Hotel, will include a silent auction and a performance from harpist Lisa Beckley-Roberts, a professor of music at Jackson State.

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Hats and gloves are optional, but Washington Ivery said prizes would be awarded to the best ones.

When Washington Ivery first conceived the fundraiser for women with breast cancer, she knew the event would grow.

She hosted the first event in her backyard, just men and women — many of whom were survivors of breast cancer — raising money for the cause.

Washington Ivery said she has seen the fundraiser grow each year.

The most the foundation has raised in one fundraiser is $5,500, but Washington Ivery said she believes they can double that, too.

All proceeds of the silent auction and donations stay in Natchez, she said, providing free mammogram screenings for women who cannot otherwise afford the procedure.

To date, the Edna B. and Joyce Fay Washington Breast Cancer Foundation has provided 98 free mammograms.

“That’s great, but I want it to be more,” she said. “I don’t want any woman to have problems getting the service.”

Washington Ivery partnered the foundation with Merit Health Natchez, which provides a discount on the services.

“If they didn’t give us the discount, there’s no way we could provide services for so many women.”

So far, she said the foundation has never had to turn a woman down, instead, they’re expanding the reach of the foundation.

Washington Ivery began the foundation 23 years ago in New Orleans, where she used to raise money for breast prostheses and hold informational sessions with survivors of cancer and their family members.

When she moved to Natchez during Hurricance Katrina, the foundation stopped doing those sessions. She wants to begin again.

Breast cancer awareness rises each year, she said, around October, but is negligible throughout the rest of the year. She wants that to change.

“We want to do things all year long,” she said. “We’re going to begin doing some things in New Orleans. We’re talking with the hospital there, who has been really very interested.”

The longest standing function of the foundation is the Sisters in Touch support group.

“I’m really proud of that,” Washington Ivery said. “Support groups don’t usually last 23 years.”

The group meets the second Monday of every month and though it started out with only five members, it has since grown to approximately 18 members at each meeting.

The group was named in part in honor of Washington Ivery’s mother.

“She wasn’t a survivor,” she said. “But she was right there with me through it all.”

To receive the paid mammogram, the patient must be recommended to the procedure by a doctor or nurse practitioner. Then, if the patient cannot pay for the service, the medical professional sends the bill to Washington Ivery.

No application or meeting with the foundation members is required, she said.

The process for getting a paid mammogram is simple and anonymous, she said, because she wants to respect the privacy of the patients.

It is a lot of work, she said, but the effort is worthwhile.

“I enjoy doing what I’m doing,” Washington Ivery said. “We say to women, ‘You can make it.’”