Nonprofit Spotlight: Caring Community Foundation

Caring Community Foundation founders Eric and Jill Wolford stand behind Christian Godwin, son of the first patient CCF ever served, LeAnne Godwin. Christian holds a copy of the thank you letter his mother wrote which inspired the founding of the non-profit.

“To all the angels who thought enough to do this kind act for someone else in need — I have cried for several hours, because this has touched my heart more than anything I have ever known.”

It seems fitting to begin this article with the words of LeAnne Godwin, the first patient that the Caring Community Foundation ever served. Like many others, Godwin was struggling to pay for her prescriptions and treatments in the midst of her fight with terminal breast cancer. Although Godwin passed away in April of 2003, her legacy lives on in her son, now a board member of Caring Community, and in the thank-you letter that inspired founders Jill and Eric Wolford to broaden their reach and help as many people as possible.

In 1999, Jill and Eric Wolford were raising two young children and renovating their home when Jill noticed that her son had stopped breastfeeding on the right side. Although initially brushed off by medical professionals, she was her own best advocate and pursued further testing. The results were devastating — Jill was diagnosed with breast cancer and started chemotherapy three days later. To the couple’s surprise, friends, family and complete strangers rallied around them and provided an army of support.

“It was crazy. I mean, there was nothing we had to do. I didn’t know why we were so fortunate — we had never accepted help in our lives for anything,” said Wolford.

The value of a strong support system became even more evident as the couple navigated the health care system.

“We realized how many people have to choose between getting through cancer versus wearing pants that fit them, eating well or affording the taxi cab ride to go and get chemo,” said Wolford.

“I would be sitting in the waiting room and talking to other patients, and it was unbelievable what other people were going through. Oftentimes they had nobody sitting with them, while I had a whole army.”

Like a small mustard seed, the desire to help and walk alongside other patients dealing with cancer was planted in the Wolfords’ hearts. After Jill finished up her treatment, the pair decided to host an impromptu backyard barbeque following the Race For The Cure as a thank you to their friends and family.

“We told everybody, whatever you pay for beer and a burger, just throw it in the bucket and we’d give it to someone who needed it through my oncologist,” said Wolford.

“That night it was like all the money in the world. We raised $724. I brought the money to my oncologist in a big beach bucket. I didn’t give her any criteria, I just asked that she give it to somebody who needs it.”

With the help of nurses and social workers, Wolford’s oncologist picked LeAnne Godwin, a terminally ill woman with a 9-yearold little boy. Now a grown man and an active board member, Christian Godwin has seen firsthand the impact a gift from Caring Community Foundation can have.

“My mother was the recipient of the $724 that was collected in Jill’s backyard,” said Godwin. “Because of this, I’m able to know how it directly affects the lives that they’re reaching out to — it kind of allows me to put into perspective how much it really means.”

“Financially, it’s obviously a huge help. But more than that, there’s people out there that do care about you and are in your corner, and it’s not just you alone in this fight by yourself.”

Godwin was 11 when his mother passed, and shortly after moved to Florida with his father. Little did he know what an impact his mother’s thank-you letter would have in his absence. Inspired by her words, Jill and Eric Wolford created the Caring Community Foundation in 2001. Since then, they have served over 4,600 patients and their families and provided more than $2.6 million in emergency financial assistance. The foundation works with around 50 social workers and patient navigators at various cancer hospitals and clinics throughout Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties.

“Many patients have fixed or no income, and when they are diagnosed they experience a lifestyle change that can be traumatic,” said Carrie Thigpen, a social worker at the Duke Cancer Center in Wake County. “Most patients during this period may have to take a leave of absence from work without pay, but still have essential bills they need paid such as rent and utilities. This is when CCF steps in to help patients avoid evictions and the shut off of utilities.”

Caring Community Foundation exists to alleviate financial burdens so that the patients can concentrate on getting well. Patients must be North Carolina residents and are eligible to receive assistance only once, even if they are receiving treatment at a different facility than before.

“We have no financial requirements for patients. The cost for patients can run into tens of thousands of dollars just for a single treatment. We exist to fill that void,” said Executive Director Maria Hernandez.

Caring Community Foundation is a donor-supported organization that receives no funding from any local, state or federal agency. Their annual Pay It Forward Gala is their bread and butter for the year — although 2021 was a virtual-only event.

“With the pandemic and everything else, our foundation has been really affected in the last couple of years. We haven’t had a face-to-face fundraiser, and there are so many problems right now — frontline workers that are in such need and people losing their jobs left and right,” said Wolford.

“My husband and I have had the conversation of, are we done? Are we going to be able to continue? Then, out of the blue, this one charity stepped up to the plate. They could no longer help their patients due to COVID, so they gave us all their money for the year.”

Wolford, who is a firm believer that good things happen when you do good things, saw it as a sign to keep going.

“Was it that the stars aligned or divine intervention? Call it whatever you want, but the whole world helped me, and I have to be here to help the whole world,” said Wolford.

“Whenever my kids used to tell me one person can’t make a difference, I was like, oh my gosh, you are so wrong. You don’t need to have superhuman strength, you just need to have a big voice.”

For more information on Caring Community Foundation and how to support its mission, visit

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *