When Al "Doc" Perry got sick a few years ago, he was already a member of Our Journey of Hope when the charity reached out to him.
"I am 90% better by them praying for me, because I believe in prayer," he said.
When his best friend got lung cancer, he returned the favor, offering emotional support and talking him out of his cigarettes.
"He gained hope," Perry said. "And I got to saying, you've got to hold on, don't give up. What Our Journey of Hope does, it says things to people that give them daylight."
Mary Greathouse has led the ministry at New Adka Missionary Baptist Church south of Dadeville ever since she first learned about the program.
"My husband was going to the cancer center in Newnan, Georgia, and they had this program there," Greathouse said. "So I came back and asked our pastor would it be okay if we started that program here."
The program, Our Journey of Hope, provides free, two-day training to churches and non-profits on providing outreach to cancer patients and their families. Those organizations then turn around and deploy those practices in their communities — not just to fellow church members, but anyone in the community affected by cancer.
New Adka Missionary Baptist Church has been doing the program for three years now, operating entirely through donations.
For any new beneficiary, volunteers reach out to the caregiver first, Greathouse. Sometimes they never even contact the patient, just do what needs to be done behind-the-scenes.
"We'll send somebody out to talk to them and once they go out and talk to them they'll come back to the group and tell the group what their needs are," she said.
Those needs vary, from meals to transportation to the hospital often as far as Montgomery, Birmingham or Newnan.
One volunteer, Shirley Taylor, brings dinner to a woman with breast cancer every day at 11 a.m. One wheelchair-bound patient had no way of getting out of her house, so the team built a ramp. From the start, Arlean Wyckoff has been working with the same lung cancer patient whom she calls almost daily. Now he's in remission.
"He came on back home and started a garden, gave me some of his vegetables that he'd grown in his garden," Wyckoff said.
Some patients only ask for company.
For the members who have seen both sides, they understand the need. Earnest Reeder is the latest to join the group, attending his first meeting in October, the Our Journey of Hope chapter's first in-person meeting since the pandemic began.
"The reason I joined is because I can testify firsthand about cancer," he said, explaining he was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016. "People would come by, talk to me and encourage me to keep on going. You're going to be alright, just trust God and keep on. And so I decided to join this group to try to pay back something to the community."
Perry again recalled his own experience, and how his fellow volunteers were at his side.
"Every one of them that's on the team, they'd either call me or come by the house," he said. "And it built my spirit — just a telephone call."