At the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation, we are inspired by the courage and heart of those with cancer diagnoses who are undergoing life-altering treatments and struggling to reclaim their lives. We have witnessed how cancer survivor Sandra Eubanks daily weaves hope and her volunteer spirit to change the lives of the homeless and those in her neighborhood adjacent to the J.C. Napier Homes public housing community. Through “summer camp,” warm meals, clothing, toys, shelter, encouragement and guidance, Sandra offers honest, “hands on” work among the neediest, the toughest and the “poorest of the poor” from this community. Her work pointedly speaks of faith and love called to action with the simplest of means. For someone who has experienced some of life’s most devastating challenges, Sandra never fails to share her love of life and belief in faith boldly on the streets of her neighborhood. Her independent effort to transform lives is supported only by the donations and generosity from churches and volunteers who are inspired by her mission.
A former hospice worker for AIDS patients in the late 1970s, Sandra was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in 2002. She endured a mastectomy and grueling chemotherapy, which have left her with fatigue and debilitating lymphedema. Even in her darkest, weariest hours of treatment and recovery, she knew that if she survived, she would turn her life over to making a difference in her neighbors’ lives. Just as her courage allowed her to care for AIDS patients in a time when little was understood about the disease, she has embraced an unconditional love for her neighbors. Her “Harvest Outreach Ministry,” a tiny structure Sandra secured for gathering those in need and just a vacant lot away from her home, is a neighborhood haven everyday of the summer and throughout the year during school breaks for approximately 60 children who come daily from the J.C. Napier Homes. Offering donated snacks, food, clothing, toys, art activities and games, music and God’s word from the ministry’s makeshift chapel, Sandra provides the love, structure, guidance, nourishment and spiritual life that many of the children hunger for, and does so for free. Her tough love on street corners has turned the lives of prostitutes, gang members and drug addicts around. Her admonishments and encouragements to floundering parents are direct and honest. From her own front door, Sandra has offered her community a reason to believe in hope, faith, and love. To fellow cancer survivors, she offers hope, encouragement, inspirational books, and warm caps.
In spite of a heart attack in the summer of 2006 followed by the devastating loss of her son a few short months later, Sandra forged ahead with holiday dinners for her neighbors, which she has done without fail for three years since her cancer diagnosis. Sandra cooks the food, packs her clapboard ministry with her neighborhood guests and hands out plates of holiday food out the back door regardless of the weather. No one is turned away and no one leaves hungry or without the offer of a warm hat, coat or gloves. Nearly 200 neighbors and homeless friends are fed every time she opens her doors for these holiday dinners.
Sandra is a beacon of light and hope in an otherwise isolating, bleak, violent neighborhood and her honest mission and volunteer spirit in the Nashville community are front-line and life altering. Her impact on the developing lives of the J.C. Napier children and neighborhood and the homeless population is far-reaching beyond her day-to-day contact with them. Her influence is simply incalculable.
The MPCF nominated Sandra for the 2007 Mary Catherine Strobel Innovator Volunteer of the Year Award and is “just so proud” to announce that Sandra was named winner at the April 18th volunteer luncheon.