CHI Memorial is warning the public about a new scam involving the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center.
Area residents have reported receiving phone calls asking for donations to the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center to help women who can't afford mammograms, but the CHI Memorial Foundation and the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center do not make solicitation telephone calls.
The MaryEllen Locher Breast Center was established in 2007 and inspired by Locher, who was a local television news anchor and health reporter who battled breast cancer.
As a result of her personal experience with cancer, Locher pledged to make the breast cancer journey easier for all women. She worked with CHI Memorial and provided inspiration for the breast cancer center, which aims to provide the best possible medical care in a calm, understanding atmosphere, according to the foundation's website.
Reducing the time between diagnosis and treatment was Locher’s primary goal.
Locher died from cancer in 2005.
A caller says he/she is representing the Breast Cancer Survivors Foundation, the Women’s Relief Fund for Breast Cancer or the Women’s Breast Cancer Relief Association, but CHI Memorial Foundation and the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center are not affiliated with any of these groups.
"There are people who do mass phone solicitation, but that's something we never have done," CHI Memorial Foundation President Jennifer Nicely said. "The foundation focuses heavily on individual giving, corporate giving and foundation giving."
The foundation's leaders raise money through grant writing, events and individual solicitation by letter. A good amount of the foundation's funds come from individuals making small gifts, she also said.
"It's unfortunate," Nicely also said about the scam. "It gives a bad name to organizations that are doing the right thing, [such as] keeping their costs as low as possible so that as much of the funds raised can go directly to the cause."
And she advised people to be careful and question callers. She said that if someone calls, ask for something in writing. She's had reports that when local residents have done this, the caller either hung up or got angry.
She also said leaders have done research about the scam, and it appears it's happening across the country. The scammers are choosing local breast cancer organizations and trying to affiliate with that name.
"Many people throughout the Tennessee Valley have a personal connection with the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center," she also said. "We don’t want anyone who knows about the great work done here to be misled by these organizations claiming to raise funds for us. If you are interested in making a donation to the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, please contact the CHI Memorial Foundation office to find out how to give.”
If you receive a phone call soliciting funds for the MaryEllen Locher Breast Center, contact the Better Business Bureau of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia at 423-266-6144.
To learn more about the CHI Memorial Foundation, call 423-495-4438 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to read about more recent scams circulating in the area.