Port Richmond: For Breast Cancer Survivor, Volunteering Was Not Enough

Mary Louise Leuters, a two-time breast cancer survivor, sat at her dining room table where she came up with the idea of the Ladies of Port Richmond.
Mary Louise Leuters, a two-time breast cancer survivor, sat at her dining room table where she came up with the idea of the Ladies of Port Richmond.

Friendly smiles, shades of pink, a hot plate and gift baskets were all factors in the Ladies of Port Richmond annual kick-off breakfast. The Port Richmond community eagerly walked into St. Adalberts School Hall on 3236 Edgemont St. ready for eat.

“Its incredible to come to an event like this to see everyone contributing to fighting this terrible disease,” said Dr. Edith P. Mitchell of Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. “We at Jefferson and the Kimmel Cancer Center appreciate all of the work and fellowship you do.”

Hospital physicians from Nazareth, Jefferson and Holy Redeemer Hospital gave speeches and shook hands with the Port Richmond community. The breakfast was a meet and greet with physicians from the local hospitals that received donations from the Ladies of Port Richmond. Families enjoyed doughnuts, biscuits, juice, sausage, French toast and more. All proceeds from the entrance fee  of $10 for adults and $5 for children were donated to the Ladies of Port Richmond breast cancer research.

Ladies of Port Richmond is a civic organization that aims to educate the community on breast cancer awareness and raise money for breast cancer research. The organization’s board and volunteers are all unpaid.

For eight years, Mary Louise Leuters has operated the Ladies of Port Richmond breast cancer research fund. Leuters is a two-time cancer survivor who has lived in Port Richmond for over 40 years with her husband, raised two children and is the proud grandmother of five grandchildren. Throughout the years she has been active in the church and it was only natural that she found an area to help those who are fighting the same battle she fought.

“I am still alive,” Leuters said. “I am happy I am still here after my fight with breast cancer. A lot of people thank us for the work that were doing. It makes you feel good to know you’re playing a part in breast cancer research.”

During her battles with breast cancer she volunteered at Jefferson Kimmel Cancer Center in Center City. Leuters learned how precious life was and she wanted to give more to the breast cancer cause. She and a few friends started The Ladies of Port Richmond in her kitchen.

“We grew up in Port Richmond, my parents both know a lot of people and they’ve been involved in the community since we were little,” said Patricia Wilus, a daughter of Leuters. “I think after everyone rallying around her from the initial diagnosis, she decided volunteering wasn’t enough.”

Every year the organization has three events:  the annual events are the Ladies of Port Richmond Breast Cancer Walk, which brings hundreds to the streets of Port Richmond, a comedy night and a communion breakfast. Stan Swiacki Meats and Ammon’s Family Shop Rite of Aramingo were among the many Port Richmond businesses that donated food and supplies for the breakfast.

“Every single penny goes to area hospitals,” said Angeline Zamorski, treasurer of The Ladies of Port Richmond. “We start with nothing every year and we give it all away in October and early November.”

Zamorski was born and raised in Port Richmond and takes pride in her community. She is a substitute at Our Lady Port Richmond Grade School and explained that as soon as the school was made aware that the organization was in need of more volunteers for the breakfast, there was an announcement made over the intercom asking students to volunteer. Twelve middle-school girls immediately signed up to help serve breakfast.

“We raised $55,000 in our first year. The money raised comes from area businesses in Port Richmond and the surrounding area,” Zamorski said. “We wouldn’t have gotten this far without their support.”

The Kimmel Cancer Center has been more than appreciative of the support offered by the Ladies of Port Richmond. On the wall hangs a plaque giving thanks to the organization for the help it’s contributed to the community. In addition to the yearly fundraisers, items are sold at the center and the money is donated to cancer research.

“That was my dream to have the Ladies of Port Richmond put on the board there,” Leuters said.

Nazareth hospital passed out an unlimited amount of breast cancer awareness giveaways, including pink bracelets and a personal breast examination instructional guide.

In her eighth year running the Ladies of Port Richmond, Leuters said that she doesn’t want to see the donations end, but at 76, she’s not sure how much longer she’ll remain at the helm. However, through her battles she has remained attentive and affable to the needs of her community, and her efforts have been appreciated and given the highest praise.

“My promise when I first started was I wanted to do it for 10 years,” Leuters said. “I don’t want to see it stop in Port Richmond because I think it’s really good for them. They thank us, they thank us for what we’re doing.”

The 8th Annual Ladies of Port Richmond Breast Cancer Walk will be held on May 20.





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