Tag Archives: Phyllis Steinbrecher

In Honor Of Phyllis

In 2006 Phyllis Steinbrecher — revered college consultant, involved citizen and long-time cancer survivor — founded the Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation.

Like its founder, BCEAF is unique.

Unlike many outstanding organizations that conduct research to find a cure, Phyllis’s group focuses on individual people.  The fund addresses the immediate, staggering financial consequences that result from a diagnosis of breast cancer.

Suddenly, some women can’t afford food for their children.  They can’t pay their bills.  Unable to work during treatment, some even lack medical insurance.

BCEAF offsets some of the expenses other human services charities might not consider.  For the past 4 years it has offered grants for expenses such as rent, utilities, specialty bras, babysitting and transportation to doctors’ appointments.

By easing some of the burdens that accompany breast cancer, BCEAF enables patients to focus on the more important challenge of getting well.

Nurses and social workers at over 20 hospitals and cancer centers in the Northeast refer patients with financial needs to BCEAF.  A grant committee reviews requests, with evaluations based on need and the availability of funds.  Grants are paid directly to the provider, not the patient.

Phyllis Steinbrecher

So far, over 400 women (and men) have been helped by BCEAF.  With the economy in rough shape, they hope to expand their reach even further this year.

Organizers hold no social events.  They appeal directly to the public — families that have been touched by cancer before, those who simply want to help, and Phyllis’ many friends.

Phyllis lost her long battle with cancer a year ago this month.  In her honor BCEAF is making this appeal, now.

It’s as special and important now as Phyllis Steinbrecher always was.

(For more information, or to make a gift, click on www.bceaf.org.  The address is PO Box 616, Westport, CT 06881; the email address is email@bceaf.org, and the phone number is 203-505-5796.)

Remembering Phyllis Steinbrecher

“Mensch” is a Yiddish word.  A great compliment, it refers to a person with admirable qualities:  integrity, honor, responsibility, goodness.  A mensch helps many people, in many ways, and in so doing enriches the world.

Phyllis Steinbrecher

Phyllis Steinbrecher

I’ve  only heard mensch applied to men — but if a woman can be a mensch, Phyllis Steinbrecher certainly was.

She was known for years as an educational consultant, working with teenagers (and their parents) in a wide variety of situations.  Wearing many different hats — instructor, guide, parent, therapist, friend, nag, cheerleader — she helped thousands of young people find the right place for college, and their future.

Phyllis never said simply, “Yale, Harvard, Brown” or “Bates, Bowdoin, Colby.”  She understood teenagers’ heads — and their parents.  A good part of her work consisted of telling moms and dads:  “Forget Princeton.  Your kid will love Colgate a lot more.”  And they did.

Another portion of her work involved finding therapeutic programs for kids who would never get to college, because they couldn’t graduate from high school.  Once she got them straightened out, then she got them into college.  It was always the right one for them.

I know all this because for two decades years I worked on educational projects with Phyllis.  One involved ghostwriting — with several psychologists — a book called You CAN Say No To Your Teenager. That was a terrible title — it really was about saying the right thing to your teenager, at the right time — but it was also one of my most enjoyable jobs ever.

For nearly a year the professionals and I met at Phyllis’s Weston home.  While eating wonderful food, they told stories of their clients; I then put their stories on paper.  What I remember most about those nights are Phyllis’s tremendous insights about teenagers; her excitement about every youngster she worked with, and her superb sense of humor.

A colleague in her Westport firm, Steinbrecher Consulting, said:

She has been my mentor, my advisor, my confidant and my dear, dear friend.  She was a remarkably accomplished woman who made everyone she met feel special.  I watched her touch hundreds of lives, and impact each one for the better.  Her gut instincts were spot on and she never minced words — but at the same time did so with grace.

Phyllis made her mark in educational consulting.  But she was devoted to many other causes — particularly breast cancer.  Since 2006 the Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation — her creation — has helped hundreds of women by providing funds for important non-medical needs like rent, utilities, transportation, specialty bras, even baby-sitting during chemo treatments.  It’s a wonderful concept — one only a mensch could dream of, and make true.

Phyllis was interested in breast cancer because for decades she suffered from it.  She beat it a couple of times — along with several other health issues — but in the end it got her.  Phyllis died yesterday afternoon.

It’s a cliche to call someone a “quiet hero.”  I won’t say that about Phyllis, because she was not quiet.  She wasn’t loud, mind you — but you knew whenever she was around, and whenever she had her hand in something.  She was a mensch — and a presence.

I miss her presence already.

(Phyllis Steinbrecher’s life will be celebrated with a service tomorrow [Friday] at 12:30 p.m., at the Conservative Synagogue on Hillspoint Road.  Contributions in her honor may be made to:  Breast Cancer Emergency Aid Foundation, PO Box 616, Westport, CT 06881.)