The Lydia Project director serves women diagnosed with cancer
May is prime time every year for local cancer survivors, with several CSRA Relays For Life taking place and thousands of dollars flowing in for the American Cancer Society, but for Michele Canchola, the focus is intense all year long, with particular emphasis on serving cancer-stricken women.
The North Augusta resident is executive director of The Lydia Project, an Augusta-based, nonprofit established in 2005 to provide a variety of free services for women with cancer.
Canchola, a native of Spokane, Wash., has spent most of her adult life in the Central Savannah River Area and has a background in hospice work, in cooperation with St. Joseph’s Hospital.
She prepared for that role by way of studies at Augusta State University, with a double major in sociology and political science, followed by a master’s degree from Georgia Southern University in public administration.
“It was created locally, and it reaches around the world,” she said, adding that anybody, regardless of location, is welcome to call or make contact via computer to request help. “Locally, we also provide financial help.”
Grovetown resident Sue Morris, who is organizing a June 13 dessert fundraiser for The Lydia Project, described Canchola as “a great leader.”
She added, “She really motivates people. She has such a passion for the women at Lydia just makes you have the passion. Working with her, it just takes over, and she’s just really great to work with.”
Satisfaction comes through such things as the fact that, last week, “we were able to serve 93 women newly referred to Lydia with a cancer diagnosis,” Canchola said.
She also expressed appreciation for “the dedicated volunteers and staff who make a new service for women coping with cancer just one discussion away.”
Changes on the near horizon include establishment of a house that will be available as lodging for women who need a place for an overnight stay in order to receive specialized cancer treatment in Augusta. The location will be 1369 Interstate Parkway, in Augusta, near Wheeler Road.
The ministry’s namesake, she said, is a woman who is described in the Bible as a seller of purple cloth, and the ministry’s tote bags have purple handles, in keeping with that theme.
Aside from her role in anti-cancer combat, Canchola also relates to military families from personal experience, having grown up as the daughter of an Air Force serviceman. Her husband, Timothy, retired in September from 30 years as a member of the Army National Guard, and now works in Aiken for United Parcel Service. On top of that, her twin brother, Michael, is retired from the Navy and now living in the state of Washington.
“As a military family, we have to be very disciplined, and I bring a lot of that military experience, as a volunteer, into my civilian job,” she said.
Helping the South Carolina Army National Guard is also a high priority for Canchola.
She said her roles tend to focus on “readying families for deployment and healing, with the creation of an emergency relief fund for National Guard families statewide.”
For more information, visit www.thelydiaproject.org. The Lydia Project’s address is 1369 Interstate Parkway, Augusta, GA 30909-5626, and the phone numbers are 706-736-5467 and (toll-free) 877-593-4212.