Windsor’s Canadian Cancer Society branch closes after more than 20 years

After being part of the community for two decades, the Canadian Cancer Society’s Windsor branch has permanently closed its doors. 

Donna Gerardi, whose 28-year-old son was recently diagnosed with cancer, says she was disappointed to hear the news. 

“People need to understand that this is a huge loss to Windsor,” said Gerardi, who lives in East Riverside. “They don’t understand what this association does for people in the community until you live it.” 

The society provides support services and information for people and families dealing with a cancer diagnosis including counselling, travel accommodations to appointments and wigs. 

The organization, located in downtown Windsor, has been closed since the start of the pandemic in March and has slowly moved out of the space over the last few months, executive vice president of finance and operations Sara Oates told CBC News Wednesday. 

Executive VP of finance and operations Sara Oates says the organization is closing a number of its brick and mortar locations so that it can provide more services online. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

While the closure isn’t specifically due to COVID-19, Oates said the pandemic has made operations more difficult and pushed the society to cut administrative costs to provide more online services. 

“This also means that we are changing our overall office footprint. So this had already started before March, but the COVID experience definitely showed us that much more can be done virtually,” Oates said. 

“The Canadian Cancer Society is going through a larger transformational change to increase our ability to control cancer and to support Canadians that are affected by cancer. So we’ve been revisiting everything that we do, how we serve Canadians with our services, how we fundraise [and] how we work,”

Three permanent staff working out of the Windsor office were laid off, due to the closure. 

Overall, the organization has seen a 40 per cent drop in revenue due to the pandemic, Oates said, a “significant” loss. Across the country 23 other locations will close this fiscal year.  

While they may not be in person anymore, Oates said people can still access support online through the company’s live chats, helpline and online peer support community. 

Oates said the organization is still trying to determine how it can continue it’s transportation service, which would help cancer patients get to their appointments. 

Donna Gerardi’s son Jeremy was diagnosed with cancer just a few weeks ago. She says the closing of Windsor’s Canadian Cancer Society made her feel sad, especially for all the people who have used the service. (Submitted by Donna Gerardi)

“It’s just really sad to see because so many things are closing, whether it be a store or a business,” Gerardi said of the services moving online.

“There’s people out there in the community that need that support and now they’re saying go on on the internet and utilize it from there?”  

As for how this closure might impact the community, Oates said it’s “something that we’ve considered and it’s been a concern to us.”

“We continue to look at ways that we can grow [our virtual services] and provide them to more people … and I think that we’ll continue to look at how we can view community in a different way, not just from a physical or geographic location, but also linking people to others who are going through a similar circumstance and can provide them with support in maybe a different way, but a way that continues to be valuable to them,” she said. 

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