Unforgotten Haven stuffs record number of Chemotherapy bags

In memory of a South Jersey resident who passed away while battling cancer late last year, her family helped put together 1,500 chemotherapy bags for those fighting cancer while at infusion centers

On a misty Monday night in early January, the streets of Blackwood in Gloucester Township move slowly. Cars pass by about every 20 seconds, with residents going back and forth about their evening, but few people walk the streets.

That is until one woman gets out of her car and walks to the storefront of The Unforgotten Haven carrying supplies to be donated.

Inside the building stand more than 30 volunteers who have come together to remember a woman who, after her death, is helping others in a similar situation she was in before passing away this past September.

Elaine Papagno passed away after battling lung cancer. Bridget Papagno, Elaine’s daughter-in-law, is a community outreach ambassador for the Holistic Chamber of Commerce and routinely drove Elaine to and from her treatments.

Every now and then, they would talk about Bridget’s current work during the drive to and from infusions. One week, after Bridget had finished a project assembling bags for victims of domestic violence, she said she was thinking about possibly working next to assemble chemotherapy bags.

Elaine, at the time, was receiving treatment in both Cherry Hill and Philadelphia, and loved the idea of collecting chemotherapy bags for those battling cancer.

“She said they gave them to her in Cherry Hill when she went for infusions,” Bridget said. “She was getting chemotherapy in Philadelphia, and they weren’t giving them to her there, but she said it really made her day when she got them and saw the messages. So I said, ‘done deal, that’s my next project.’”

Elaine had said she wanted to help in any way that she could, but passed away before the project got moving.

Last week, The Unforgotten Haven stuffed 1,500 chemotherapy bags in Elaine’s honor, the most they’ve assembled in a single night since starting approximately three years ago. Instead of flowers from friends and family, Elaine’s family requested monetary donations to The Unforgotten Haven.

Inside the bags are prepackaged peanut butter crackers, pretzels, apple juice, hard candy and mints, cookies, lip balm, tissues and homemade cards of encouragement from students at Blackwood Elementary School and from the nonprofit as well.

Joe Papagno says his mom was receiving infusions at Penn Medicine twice a week for an autoimmune condition, receiving treatment for four hours a day every Monday and Tuesday for more than a year.

“She was so excited when Bridget said The Unforgotten Haven did chemotherapy bags,” said Joe.

Elaine did not receive chemotherapy bags during her time at Penn in Philadelphia, however she did when she would go to Penn Medicine in Cherry Hill. However, in Elaine’s honor, the first drop off location for the bags made this past week will be going to Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.

Sophia Vicardi, who volunteers at The Unforgotten Haven, got connected with the organization months ago after her aunt had worked with the organization. She was just one of the many volunteers who came out to help assemble the bags for patients they will never meet.

“These are blessings for others who really need it,” Vicardi said, who found out about the packing event through Facebook. “It’s a joy to be able to help out like this.”

Additional monetary donations or supplies can be made at theunforgottenhaven.org.