By Ryn Gargulinski
Pilot staff writer
The first time Sandy Dietz visited Bree's Upscale Resale shop, she had to be dragged in.
And not because she has an aversion to second-hand clothing.
"There was an article in the paper that there was going to be a speaker (at Bree's)," Dietz said of someone speaking women's health issues.
"It was when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and my friend dragged me in."
Since that episode about two years ago, Dietz has become a regular to the shop for support, friendly faces, referrals and, oh yes, to shop.
"I love coming into the store," Dietz said. "It's so good after surviving cancer to have the support. The clothes are beautiful, gorgeous."
While the clothes may take center stage upon entering the shop, one soon realizes it's about so much more.
"The store itself is a fundraiser so we can offer the services we do," said director of women's services Pedoz Martin. "The community has been incredibly supportive. The community has been fantastic."
The Bree's in the Brookings-Harbor Shopping Center offers referrals for services, education on breast cancer prevention, a small library with books on breast health and general wellness, free wigs if women are going through chemotherapy and cannot afford them, free mastectomy bras and prostheses for women without insurance and, perhaps often most importantly, someone to listen.
Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. they hold a "Tea at Ten" where women are invited to come share their experiences.
"Sometimes there's one person there, sometimes dozens," Martin said. "Sometimes couples come. The people are really supportive of each other."
The local foundation serves women in Curry, Coos and, since the Brookings location is so close to California, Del Norte counties.
Bree's mission is especially a propos since October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Oct. 1 also served as their anniversary, first opening the doors to their Brookings location in 2004.
"This store was opened as a model store that incorporates the service element," Martin said.
In honor of October, the store is also offering a month-long sale, a chance to enter a raffle for a diamond-encrusted watch and other prizes and an open house from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14.
Bree's Foundation was begun by Nancy Pennington when her 23-year-old daughter, Sabrina (Bree), was diagnosed with breast cancer. The foundation began with a store in 1997 and expanded to include stores in Coquille and Brookings.
"I decided to take action and do something that would assist other women, through early detection and education, to avoid Sabrina's hell," Pennington writes on the Bree's Foundation Web site as to what propelled her to start the foundation.
Martin, who started as a volunteer with the foundation six years ago, is so immersed in her work helping other women, she not only advanced to become the foundation's executive director and director of women's services, but also earned a nomination for a national award.
It's an award for outstanding achievement in the field of community health from the Robertwood Johnson Foundation.
Martin said her own life of frequent illness helps her to empathize and have compassion for those going through hard times.
"I am not a breast cancer survivor, but I am a survivor," she said. "I've been at the bottom and have had to start over again. I've been there."
But not everyone who has been there may know what Bree's is all about.
In fact, some people don't even know it exists.
"Four people came in this morning and said they didn't even know we were here," she said, adding it frequently happens even with local people who have 10 years or better in the area.
In addition to their focus on helping women with breast cancer, Martin said they also work with Hanscam Center to help women who are getting back into the workforce.
"I worked in corporate training," Martin said of her former career, "and I offered to serve as a training site."
She said since their inception they've helped about 10 women get back into the employment swing and many others, back into life's swing.