Cancer Community Center, Dempsey Center to merge

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PORTLAND — The Cancer Community Center and Lewiston’s Dempsey Center, nonprofits that provide quality-of-life services for cancer patients, are merging.

Actor Patrick Dempsey, a Lewiston native who played a starring role in the television series “Grey’s Anatomy,” made the announcement Monday at Thompson’s Point. The new organization will begin operating as the Dempsey Centers for Quality Cancer Care in early 2018 and will provide cancer support services to patients at no cost. 

Dempsey founded the Dempsey Center in 2008, after his mother went through several bouts with ovarian cancer. Dempsey’s intention was to give back to the community where he grew up and where his mother first received treatment for her cancer. 

Dempsey said he plans to take on a more involved role and will hold a permanent seat on the new board of directors. He said he will work closely with leadership, donors and staff “as its guiding voice.”

“I think there is a way we can work together and support each other,” Dempsey said. “At the end of the day, the patient is the most important person.”

Final negotiations for the merger still must take place and final approval will be needed from the boards of both organizations.

The Dempsey Center is part of Central Maine Healthcare, but if the merger is finalized the new entity will be an independent nonprofit.

The new Dempsey Centers are expected to employ about 30 people and provide services to more than 5,000 patients. Clients of both organizations will be able to continue receiving the services, programs and groups they are accustomed to, according to a news release. 

The Dempsey Center and Cancer Community Center now offer programs such as relaxation yoga, tai chi, massage, meditation, support groups, nutrition counseling, and seminars. 

The combined organization will also continue to operate from offices in Lewiston and South Portland.

Wendy Tardif, executive director of The Dempsey Center, at 29 Lowell St. in Lewiston, will continue in that role after the merger. 

 “As the number of Mainers impacted by cancer continues to grow, expanding our footprint as one organization is an exciting next step,” Tardif said in a news release. “Our two organizations have a history of collaboration. Merging expands our ability to offer best practices related to quality of life services at no cost to individuals and families impacted by cancer. We also look forward to using this opportunity to forge even stronger relationships with all health systems across the state.”

Tardif said at the event that as cancer patients live longer, quality of life services become more important.

“What we offer to patients is a quality of life and improving their quality of life,” she said.

Nicole Avery, executive director of the Cancer Community Center, at 778 Main St. in South Portland, is expected to take a senior leadership role in the new organization.

“Our management teams complement each other in terms of roles and skill sets. We are looking forward to bringing together the expertise, focus and passion of our amazing people. And, what’s exciting is that those we presently serve benefit from our shared services, multiple locations, enhanced programming and a new vision for the future,” Avery said in the prepared release.

Melanie Sochan can be reached at 781-3661 ext.106 or msochan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter @melaniesochan.

Lewiston native and actor Patrick Dempsey, who founded the Dempsey Center in Lewiston, speaks at a July 17 Portland press conference announcing the merger of the Dempsey Center in Lewiston and South Portland’s Cancer Community Center. With Dempsey is Nicole Avery, executive director of the Cancer Community Center.

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