North St. Louis is a designated breast cancer “hot spot,” with economic, social and cultural barriers discouraging many women from seeking diagnosis and treatment. The Breakfast Club Inc. (BCI), founded in 1997, is striving to overcome these challenges through innovative ways of reaching and assisting women at risk for breast cancer, focusing on underserved African-American communities in north city and county.
The organization traces its roots to a breakfast between three breast cancer survivors and a woman who had just received a diagnosis of breast cancer. By the time the breakfast had ended, the woman asked if they could meet again the following month to discuss care options and coping mechanisms. Within six months the meeting had grown to ten women, and by 2000 BCI became a formal not-for-profit agency. Today, BCI has more than 250 members and has expanded to include Breakfast Club Brothers and Breakfast Club Kids groups.
BCI sought and received its first SOS grant in 2022, demonstrating a clear understanding of their clients and community and a strong vision for their future. The agency’s peer-to-peer approach includes outreach at sites such as churches, beauty shops, laundromats and senior centers. Since its inception, BCI has provided education regarding breast health to more than 12,000 people and support services to more than 500 breast cancersurvivors. BCI has distributed 1,500 bras and 700 breast prostheses to women who could not afford them. Through partnerships with local health care providers, BCI has helped make mammograms accessible to more than 2,600 women. They also offer a program of nutrition education and exercise coaching to uninsured and under-insured low-income breast cancer survivors and women at risk for breast cancer. Their newest outreach program, “Tell Your Mama,” enables BCI to provide Hazelwood School District girls with information and encouragement to spread the word about breast exams.
Nancy Hamilton, vice chair of SOS’s Impact Committee, recently participated with other committee members in a mid-year review of BCI. “We were inspired by their professionalism and the compassion with which they approach their mission,” she says. “They have focused on their core strengths in developing and adapting their programs to meet the needs of the community they serve, and their deep commitment and energy are readily apparent.”