Though historically a women’s organization, the Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation has now begun allowing men to join as members.
The new male members bring a new enthusiasm and a different perspective to the foundation’s work, said Jodie Silver and Merle Wolf, residents of Owings Mills and co-presidents of the foundation.
A 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the foundation was established in 1957 by a group of sorority sisters whose adviser, Mildred Mindell, had died from breast cancer, said Wolf, a former member of Adat Chaim. Wanting to honor her, the sisters founded the organization and took the advice of Mindell’s mother to focus their efforts on cancer.
Currently, the foundation’s work centers around raising money for programs that provide services to cancer patients. Silver noted one donation that was used to purchase teddy bears for children with cancer. In their 65-year history, the Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation has given away $5 million.
The foundation began the ongoing process of revising its bylaws to allow for male members in August of 2021, said Silver, a member of Kol HaLev.
Earlier that summer, a man in the community, Sandy Hiken, had contacted Silver. Hiken was interested in joining a cancer foundation after the recent death of his wife, and his late mother-in-law had been a member of Mildred Mindell, so he decided to reach out to them.
“I said, we’re a woman’s organization,” said Silver. “He said, ‘You’ve got to roll with the times, you’ve got to get with the times. I’m going to join somewhere, I’d like it to be with you.’”
Silver recalled that Hiken then said, “‘Well, you know, the Boy Scouts are now admitting girls, why can’t Mildred Mindell admit men?’
“We did not have a good answer,” Silver said.
Silver’s husband Alan had been wanting to join for years, she said, and Wolf noted that they had “thought about it in the past, but it just never flew, so we didn’t push it.”
It was now clear that other men were interested in joining as well, so the foundation began a discussion about fundamental change. After meeting with Hiken to see if he’d be a match for the foundation, the question was put to a vote for the regular membership, who voted unanimously in favor of welcoming men.
Many of the foundation’s members are in their 80s — many young people are too busy raising families to participate beyond giving donations — so they didn’t feel they were in a position to turn away new members, Silver noted.
Wolf said that men had long been assisting the foundation’s work in the background, and that the new rules simply moved them to the foreground.
Silver’s husband Alan and son Brian were the first male members of Mildred Mindell, she said, and Wolf’s husband Howard joined soon after. Out of Mildred Mindell’s 130 or so members, around a dozen are now men.
Wolf and Silver noted that the men who have joined have paid their dues upfront, “which the ladies have never done,” Silver laughed. They added that the new male members sometimes view matters in a different light as well.
“My husband and a couple of the other guys are like, ‘Well what’s your goal?’” Wolf said. “And ours is to raise as much money as we can, and they say, ‘No, but what’s your goal number?’”
Wolf added that while, in the past, responsibilities were given to a group of members to carry out, the new male members often ask which individual members will be in charge of which specific tasks.
“They are more concrete, which sort of reins us in a little bit, and is helpful,” Wolf continued. She added that in the past, members would sometimes be assigned a task and respond with “a lot of hemming and hawing, I’m going to do it when I get a chance. That hasn’t happened from the men.” She speculated this might result from the men being new to how the members normally operate.
To anyone interested in joining the foundation, Silver wants them to know that Mildred Mindell welcomes everyone to become a member.
“We need your money, we need your time, we need you and your ideas,” Wolf said.