I (Anthony Crosby) would like to start this feature out by sharing something today’s guest shared with me during our conversation.
“Elko is a very generous community. Our community just needs to know there is a need, and it will respond.“
I believe this to be one hundred percent true, and so do many members of our town. I’ve heard from so many of our neighbors how they cherish the fact that people in our area genuinely care when others go through hardships. Furthermore, Elko not only cares, but it asks how it can get involved. This type of attitude may have become normalized to those who have called Elko home for a long time; however, it’s not a common thing one would find in most places. I hope that as long as we have people such as today’s guest as our neighbors, this won’t be a character trait our community will be losing any time soon.
This week, we are joined by Marge Warmbrodt. Over the past two decades, Marge has played an instrumental part in the founding and operational overseeing of the local, non-profit Friends for Life, Inc.
What is Friends for Life, you ask? The mission of the group is to provide financial and other types of assistance to residents of Elko County who are going through significant medical hardships. Since 1996, their goal has been to come alongside individuals who would otherwise be unable to meet their needs on their own.
Marge, you and FFL have done so much fantastic work for many men and women in Northern Nevada over the years. I’m excited to learn more about it all. First, I would like for you to share how FFL began. It’s fascinating because one person’s story was used as the seed that would grow into something that would impact so many people’s stories in the future.
“Yes. I was raised here in Elko. In 1992, my husband and I moved to Ruby Valley, and a local rancher had built the home we were living in. His granddaughter, Carolyn, would come into the Valley, and she had breast cancer. She was only twenty-two years old. I had experienced breast cancer when I was thirty-seven, so I had a bond with the girl. As her cancer progressed, she needed to have a bone marrow transplant, but she didn’t have any money or insurance. She came to me asking if I would help her do a fundraiser; that’s how the Friends for Life seed was planted.
“I went on this endeavor with her, and then the whole community got behind it. She needed one hundred and twenty thousand dollars—we raised seventy thousand dollars for her in three weeks! We didn’t even have the mines back then to help us out; it was me with my telephone and the community calling me to respond.
“Unfortunately, cancer eventually took over, and she died. However, at the same time, a man from Ely accepted a job in Elko working at Stewart Title. He had this idea that there were other “Carolyns” out there who needed help. His idea turned into Friends for Life, and we’ve been doing it for twenty-three years now! It’s been my life, especially after my husband passed away in 2003.”
Thank you so much for sharing that will us, Marge. How does FFL work practically? How is the organization run?
“Anything tied to a medical need, we can respond to. If people in the community want to get together to raise a goal for an individual, we can organize them under our non-profit, sort of like a Go Fund Me type deal. For example, when someone has a need that takes them out of town, I’m notified. I can help them with travel and lodging. We average helping about two people each week. We have assisted in sixty-six separate fundraising campaigns in the last twenty-three years, through which people raised over seven-hundred thousand dollars for their friends. All our donations are from other people; we don’t receive any grants because we usually don’t qualify for them. We’re not here to pay someone’s entire bill, but rather to be an assist for someone when they need it most.
“Andy Bell was one of the first individuals we helped. We’ve worked with a history teacher who needed a bone marrow transplant, a sixteen-year-old with cancer, and even babies with cancer. We’re low key; we get our referrals from the medical community.
“We have a beautiful, diverse board of ten people who help me. The board has given me some guidelines with how much I can help people with; if someone’s needs are outside of perimeters, I’ll go to the board for advice.”
Besides helping so many people by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, is there any other accomplishment that left you feeling especially proud?
“In 1998, we started looking into the fact there wasn’t kidney dialysis in Elko and how we could solve that problem. The Elko Native Americans got behind us to help, and we were able to get Dialysis Clinic Inc. to bring in a mobile unit, which was located, for ten years, on the Indian Colony land. Now, it’s at the hospital at the medical building.”
After twenty-three years, why do you think you’re still so passionate about FFL, Marge?
“It was my purpose. I think we all want to know why we’re here, doing the things we do; Friends for Life filled that within me. It’s also really given me something to do ever since I became a widow sixteen years ago. I’ll keep doing this as long as God lets me and as long as everyone else will keep this going afterward!”
Fantastic. Thank you again for responding to such an important life calling, Marge! Is there anything else you’d like to share about the organization?
“We’re here to help! If it has a medical aspect attached to it, get a hold of us; we can address it. Find a provider who knows about us or contact one of our local board members (listed below).”
Bob Collyer -Elko Tool & Fastner
Billie Crapo -Elko Chamber of Commerce
Shabonya Dutton -State Farm Insurance
Angela Fraser -Red Lion
Wendy Greener -Dialysis Clinic, Inc
Tom Gust -Nevada Bank & Trust
Kathy Polkinghorne- Coldwell Banker
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See you around, Elko!
Written by: Anthony Crosby
Edited by: Nadara Merrill