EDGEWOOD, Ky. -- Compassion That Compels is a rapidly growing, Christian nonprofit that provides custom goody bags to women across the globe who are battling cancer, but its volunteers aim to deliver something even more valuable.
“We’re spreading hope and joy,” founder Kristianne Stewart said of her international ministry. “We want to show God’s love to these brave and beautiful women in the hardest place.”
Local volunteers have brought Stewart and her Louisiana-based nonprofit’s mission to the tri-state. The group delivered compassion bags for the first time this fall to women receiving treatment at St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s Edgewood Cancer Care Center.
Each compassion bag contains custom items, including a religious devotional, notebook, journal and pen as well as a box of organic, decaf tea and mug, candy, restaurant gift card and blanket.
To a casual observer, delivering the well-stocked bags to patients may seem like a simple gesture. A closer look reveals the real impact Compassion That Compels volunteers are having on women fighting cancer, according to Shayna Hamilton, nurse manager for the cancer care center.
“It goes beyond the bags,” said Hamilton. “You can see the spirits of these women lift.”
Stewart visited the tri-state and accompanied a small group of local volunteers on their first delivery last month.
“They held (patients’) hands, talked with them about their journey and prayed with them,” Hamilton said of their visit. “You could see the impact and it brought us all to tears.”
Volunteers who are part of the project here in Greater Cincinnati are all from Altar’d State, a women’s fashion boutique in Crestview Hills. The faith-based company started seven years ago and has more than 70 stores, which each coordinate a variety of philanthropic efforts that support charities of all shapes and sizes.
“Part of our mission is giving back,” said Allie Anstead, who helps coordinate the Crestview Hill store’s philanthropy efforts. “We support a variety of causes throughout the year, but we have a continued partnership with Compassion That Compels.”
A variety of Altar’d State stores have partnered with the nonprofit for the past few years. The small group of women from the Crestview Hills store will continue to support the mission here locally and coordinate compassion bag deliveries to St. Elizabeth, she said.
“It was definitely a moving experience,” Anstead, of Cold Spring, said of their first delivery. “For us, it’s about helping to instill a sense of hope.”
Stewart founded Compassion That Compels after her sister and two sisters-in-law were diagnosed with cancer. She started out hosting a bible study and quietly donating compassion bags to women fighting any type of cancer on her own.
It was a small outreach until a post she made on Facebook went viral in July 2013 and requests for bags started pouring in.
The level of need prompted her to redirect her mission, she said, and it has grown from there with the continued support of a growing number of partners, volunteers and individual donations.
Its growth can be measured in bags: By the end of 2013, the nonprofit had delivered 300 compassion bags. The following year, the number of bags grew to more than 1,000. And in 2015, it doubled to 2000.
So far this year, the ministry has delivered more than 2,900 bags to women in 42 states in the U.S., as well as three provinces in Canada and a handful of other countries, including Ireland, Scotland and Australia.
“Cancer hijacks your life,” Stewart explained. “Our mission is to reach every women battling cancer with a compassion bag to remind them they’re never alone.”
That kind of support is invaluable to women who receive a cancer diagnosis, Hamilton said. At St. Elizabeth's cancer care center, Compassion That Compels’ ministry ties in well with other resources the team provides, like support groups.
“After a cancer diagnosis, everyone’s journey is different, but life completely changes,” Hamilton said. “Compassion and support is so important.”
To get involved, donate or learn more about Compassion That Compels, click here.