Woman organizes fundraisers to help five families

Leslie Sconce, office specialist for Corporate and Community Education at Danville Area Community College, is raising money to help five local families in need this holiday season.

DANVILLE – A Georgetown woman is raising money to help five local families this holiday season because she believes in loving people in purposeful ways.

“We’re on this Earth for something bigger than ourselves,” Leslie Sconce said.

Sconce, who is an office specialist for Danville Area Community College’s corporate and community education division, started raising money last month for the family of DACC Presidential Scholar Rachelle Tiu, whose mother, Juvy, is fighting Stage 4 cancer.

“Rachelle is our student worker, and her father, Andy Tiu, was a security guard out here at the mall,” Sconce said, explaining her relationship to the family.

“Rachelle’s parents came to America from the Philippines for a better life,” Sconce said. “They came here because Juvy got a nursing job at the Hawthorne Inn.

“Her mom beat cancer once, but now it’s spread. They thought it was in remission because the markers were so low, but in reality it has metastasized and now it’s Stage 4, and it’s in her liver and her lungs,” she said.

“We truly miss her being at Hawthorne Inn,” Amy Lockwood-Thompson, director of marketing and public relations at Liberty Village, said. “Many of our staff members continue to stay in touch with her.

“Through her first time battling cancer, she continued to work and never complained about what all she was going through,” Lockwood-Thompson said of Tiu. “She’s definitely one of the most compassionate and caring nurses I’ve ever worked with. Her dedication to her patients is truly admirable.

“I truly believe her positive attitude will help her beat this horrible disease,” she added.

Sconce agreed that Juvy has remained upbeat throughout her battle, but also has been making final preparations for her family. She started chemotherapy Nov. 20, but “her big bucket list was to bring her mom here so she could see her one last time.”

“Juvy just started chemo last week, and she’s the glue that holds the family together,” she said. “My heart was breaking because all Juvy wanted was her mom.”

Sconce asked Rachelle and her family for permission to start a GoFundMe campaign in October to raise $7,000 to bring Juvy’s mom to the United States and cover her travel expenses.

“We raised close to about half of that amount,” she said of the initial fundraiser. “They have been getting money from their church and others, too.

“Rachelle’s grandma has her visa and her plane ticket to the U.S. Embassy in the Philippines,” Sconce said. “We hope a family friend can accompany her to the United States because she doesn’t speak English.”

Sconce reinvigorated her efforts Nov. 15 with a Facebook fundraiser for the Tiu family and added four more local families in need. She hopes to raise a total of $5,000 with that campaign.

“There are so many people that are in need,” she said. “Life seems to have a way of breaking people down. It breaks my heart.

“These are all wonderful people who need a helping hand, and what better time than at the holidays,” she added.

The additional four people in need include Paula Jones Gomez, a 1989 Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School graduate, who is diabetic, blind and has lost a leg and needs a new shower installed and other construction projects to make her home handicapped accessible; an elderly diabetic woman who needs a furnace; a young Danville man who lost his job after being involved in an accident; and another family who “doesn’t have a whole lot” and needs financial help during the holidays.

“For three of the families, it’s going to be a surprise,” Sconce said. “They don’t know we’re raising money for them.”

Aware that some people might be a little reluctant to donate to a social media-based fundraiser, Sconce has organized a couple other opportunities in the community to collect donations on Saturday, Dec. 7.

She enlisted the help of her daughter, Meghanne Jennings, who is home on Thanksgiving break from Eastern Illinois University, to help make craft items to sell at the Winter Farmers’ Market that will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at the First Presbyterian Church, 100 N. Franklin St., Danville.

The mother-and-daughter artists will decorate glass cookie plates and create cookie cutter wreaths, wooden signs with inspirational messages and ornaments to sell at the farmers’ market.

“One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to the five families,” Sconce said of the sale of the craft items.

Following the farmers’ market, a chili supper, bake sale and silent auction will take place from 3-7 p.m. that Saturday at the Tiu family’s church, Danville Alliance Church, 2509 N. Bowman Ave.

“The pastor there jumped on board with this,” she said. “People from the church are baking things for the bake sale.”

Laura Hensgen, who is director of community education and video development at DACC, Sconce and members of the church will make the chili for the event. Peanut butter sandwiches, tea and coffee also will be served.

Bids will be accepted on silent auction items — which include gift cards to the Village Mall, a handbag, and a couple of gift baskets filled with roasted and candied nuts — throughout the chili supper until 7 p.m.

Although the chili supper, bake sale and silent auction will benefit the Tiu family, Sconce said she will have a donation box set up to collect money for the other four families in need.

“We just want to get people to come out and say ‘hi’ and support us,” she said. “People can shop at the various events out in the county and then have chili with us.”

Since starting the initial GoFundMe campaign last month, Sconce said she has been contacted by people from all over the world.

“That just proves people loving people can reach people thousands of miles away,” she said. “People need people. There are millions of people with similar needs, and if we could help one family in just a small way, it would make a world of difference.”

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