Nightingales Harvest a sanctuary for cancer patients, their families

Tammy Walro, Press Features Editor

        What makes a person step outside their boundaries and start a life changing organization?
        For Lisa Eisenbach, of Toledo, it was a set of difficult personal experiences that led her on a journey that would ultimately create blessings for many.
        It began 11 years ago when Eisenbach’s father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Then her best friend, Kim Mardini-Channer, who was raising a young family, found out she was in stage 4 colon cancer.
        Looking for resources to help her friend, Eisenbach realized that outside of the national cancer organizations, there were few resources available.
        In an effort to help change that narrative, she started providing groceries, which she stored in her basement, to Kim and her family. Word got out and people started contacting her for help.  
        With the support of her husband, Ken, Eisenbach left her job as a nurse and used her 401K to help feed the families. She sought advice for starting a non-profit, completed the process and launched Nightingales Harvest Cancer Pantry.
        She assembled a group of friends who became her first board members, and enlisted the help of local oncologist, Dr. Tim Kasunic, who provided monetary and personal support, and eventually moved the pantry operation out of her basement.
        Over the years, there were three moves to bigger facilities – serving more families requires more space. Fundraising events and efforts throughout the years – including collecting aluminum and tin cans and recyclable metals, garage sales, barbeques and fiestas and a motorcycle ride – have helped provide the necessary money to continue the mission.
        Local corporations have also donated and continue to do so, Eisenbach said. The Meijer store on Alexis Road in Toledo helps stock the shelves through its Simply Give campaign. (Customers are encouraged to purchase a $10 Simply Give donation card upon checkout. Once purchased, the donation is converted into a Meijer food-only gift card and is donated directly to a local food pantry selected by the store). Other benefactors include Seagate Food Bank, several churches, Sofo’s, Bread from Ben, Campbell’s Soup in Napoleon, Hirzel Canning in Northwood and private donors.
        “We are eternally grateful for their generosity. Their commitment to these families allows us to serve anyone regardless of income,” said Kathy Varga, NGH board president.
         “Our current location, The Church of Our Savior, at 2820 West Alexis Rd., Toledo, provides us adequate storage and office space, a walkaround pantry stocked with groceries, toiletries, blankets donated by churches and personal care products that are accessed by our families via personal visits or phone in to select their items.,” Varga said.
        “A staff of volunteers gathers selections, bags them and delivers them to recipients’ cars outside our doors, or they are delivered by our Aspiring Hands adults every month, up to three months after the end of their cancer journey,” she said. “Our caring staff also offer smiles, hugs and love to all who come for assistance. (Aspiring Hands, Inc. is a day habilitation program for “adults with capabilities” in Lucas County.)
        “Recently we served a family who, within a year, lost a husband/father and an 11-year-old daughter/sibling,” Varga said. “We surrounded this family with love and, through our networking with other cancer agencies, a generous engineering company and private donors provided a year’s rent, a memorial service, a tree planted at East Broadway Elementary School with the student’s name and Christmas gifts for the entire family.
        “We continue to advocate for them,” Varga said. “Once a Nightingales Harvest family, always a Nightingales Harvest family.”
        Nightingales Harvest offers many ways to help, for those who would like to support its mission.
“Donate, volunteer, make referrals,” Varga said. “We are currently seeking board members, persons with marketing expertise, product and monetary donations and volunteers for The Glass City Marathon – we are one of their charities.”
        “Donations – gift cards, money and food and toiletries – are especially welcome as our families, like everyone in the community, try to deal with rising grocery costs,” Eisenbach said. “The last year has been a little tough; we’ve had to purchase a lot of food ourselves, on top of the donations we get.”
        Learn more at, or by calling 419-725-1190.


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