It was in 2008 that Elizabeth Burnett Meyer began volunteering with the auxiliary of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. A co-worker asked her to serve on the committee for the Cooks Tour, the auxiliary’s former fundraiser.
Several months after making that commitment, Meyer lost her mother to metastatic breast cancer. Through her grief, she resolved to continue her involvement with the organization. "I had been looking for a way to get involved in the community and volunteer, and so that kind of helped me decide that I wanted to stick with the cancer institute," she says.
Stick with it she did. In addition to her work on the Cooks Tour, she took a turn as auxiliary president. This year, the vice president and branch manager for One Bank & Trust is leading the charge for another auxiliary initiative with which she has previously worked — the UAMS Partners Card.
Now in its 13th year, the retail-discount card sells for $50 apiece and is good for 20 percent discounts on purchases at more than 250 retail stores and restaurants in central and Northwest Arkansas. The discounts can be used during Partners Card Week, Oct. 28 to Nov. 6.
All proceeds from the price of the card are used by the auxiliary for grants and donations to programs helping cancer patients. These include wigs and caps dispensed to chemotherapy patients through the institute’s wig shop, a yoga class and massage therapy, head and neck cancer screenings, Seed of Hope tokens (given to patients who reach a milestone in their treatment) and patient assistance programs in Northwest Arkansas — "services that we don’t have money to do otherwise," says Susan Van Dusen, a communications specialist for the institute.
Partners Card sales in 2015, along with auxiliary gift-shop proceeds, enabled the group to grant $145,000 for these programs, according to Meyer and Van Dusen.
WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?
Meyer first worked with Partners Card in 2012. She served as secretary for the committee, helping with card sales and delivering sellers’ and merchants’ packets.
"It’s just fun. I mean who doesn’t like to save money while shopping and support a good cause and a great group of women and guys to work with? I just enjoy it and knew that I wanted to continue helping any way that I can," she says.
The goal this year is to sell 2,000 cards, which amounts to $100,000 just from card sales.
"We have raised over $100,000 in the past, but that includes sponsorships as well … And we’ve come close, but we haven’t hit that number yet. We think this year we’ve got a good chance."
New Partners Card merchants are added every year, and this year they have 11 new ones from Conway. Independent, locally owned businesses dominate the merchant list. "With local businesses we have the most success, I would say; they’re here in the city, and they know about the cancer institute," Meyer says. "But we still have a lot of national chains as well, like The Gap and Container Store." She’s in pursuit of more.
"Some of the larger chains — it’s hard to get in," she explains.
Prospective merchants are suggested by word of mouth. "And if a new business comes in … we reach out to them," Meyer says. "We had [an] auxiliary member that has a business storefront in Conway so she introduced the committee to some stores [whose owners] she thought would be interested in participating. So that’s kind of how we got into the Conway market." Committee members have also discussed the possibility of expanding into the Hot Springs market.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
The committee starts the February before each Partners Card campaign, with planning and preparation. Committee meetings start in April and are once a month. "Lots of time is put into it," Meyer says.
That’s a considerable commitment for a working wife and mother, especially as Meyer also serves on the PTA board for her daughters’ school, Don Roberts Elementary. "Luckily I work for a local bank and they encourage volunteerism," she says. Her family — husband Damon Meyer and children Sarah, 10, and Christian, 7 — has also been "very supportive." And, Meyer adds, the quality and work ethic of her committee has made her job less of a challenge.
Where does Meyer plan to use her own Partners Card? She likes to patronize the merchants in Pleasant Ridge Town Center, the Chenal Promenade and the Heights — establishments "that are just close by each other and fun places to shop that you can … park and go to all of them within walking distance."
Cards can be bought at the website below. In addition, about half of the merchants, including the auxiliary gift shop, stock the cards to give shoppers an on-the-spot opportunity to get a discount on purchases made during their visit. "That means a lot when you’re buying furniture or jewelry or something like that," Meyer says.
Meyer wants to see the initiative continue to grow each year in terms of merchant numbers and territory.
"I love the cancer institute, just because of everything that it does for people," she says. "I like to see projects and fundraisers that we do … truly make a difference in a patient’s life."
Partners Cards may be purchased at uamspartnerscard.com or by calling (501) 686-8286.
High Profile on 10/16/2016
Print Headline: Partners Card adds new stores
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