Sara Merendino is a social worker at AtlantiCare Cancer Care Institute, Egg Harbor Township, NJ, who has worked closely with Bringing Hope Home. Sara has referred 24 local families who are in need of our Light of Hope Family Grant Program and holiday Adopt-A-Family Program. Sara took some time to share a bit about herself, her work before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and her experience working with Bringing Hope Home.

Sara has been working as a social worker for the past six years and is currently working at AlantiCare Cancer Care Institute. Aside from her career, Sara loves the outdoors and trying new things. While in high school, Sara was a part of a club called the Interact Club. Her involvement in the club first sparked her interest in helping people and led to her choosing to become a social worker.

Sara’s day-to-day role as a social worker is ever-changing.  She stated that most of her work revolves around what her patients need at the moment and that the assistance she provides varies from patient to patient. Generally, Sara focuses on providing financial assistance, referrals, and solving patients’ problems during their treatment. Some of the difficulties that Sara helps to aid include patients suffering from mental health issues and disabilities. Sara stated that no matter what the task at hand is, her work is dedicated to mentally, physically, and financially helping support her patients.

The most fulfilling part of Sara’s job is that she can “go to work happy and leave happy.” She looks at even the smallest acts of kindness and assistance as a huge accomplishment. Seeing the relief in her patients is a reward she gets to experience every day. Sara uses her creativity to find a way to make any difference in a patient’s experience working with her. The main goal for Sara’s work is to be able to provide as much as possible. She stated, “No matter the size, helping at least one person is always a benefit.”

During the pandemic, Sara began working remotely from March 2020 to July 2020. At that time, she shared the cancer center continued to grow with new patients and diagnoses. The biggest challenge she saw with patients, aside from their diagnoses, was the added fear that COVID-19 brought to their cancer journey.  Patients had no choice but to put their lives in the hands of AtlantiCare’s team members. While patients face the uncertainty of cancer, COVID, and the drastic changes that come with these issues, Sara is determined to make things as comfortable as possible for her patients while providing what they need.

Sara first discovered Bringing Hope Home while training with her co-worker Samantha. Samantha initially provided Sara with all of her available resources and introduced her to Bringing Hope Home’s Light of Hope Family Grant Program. Along with referring families to the Light of Hope Family Grant Program, Sara has also referred families to Bringing Hope Home’s other programs, such as the Adopt-A-Family Program during the holiday season and the Backpacks for Hope Program for assistance with back to school supplies.

“My experience with Bringing Hope Home has been awesome. I refer as many families as possible to BHH’s great programs, and I have had the opportunity to be involved in the programs as a donor myself.” Sara and her colleague Samantha generously adopt a local family during the holiday season and provide gifts and gift cards through the Adopt-A-Family Program.

Sara shared that although being a social worker has its pros and cons, just like any job, the assistance from organizations such as Bringing Hope Home has provided families with such unimaginable relief that the reward of helping families outweighs any of the hardships. Sara loves being a HOPE Nation member and looks forward to continuing her work with Bringing Hope Home.

We at Bringing Hope Home continuously thank Sara for her work and her involvement in our organization.

Interview and article by BHH intern Jessica Rossbauer