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Monthly Charity Spotlight: The Chronic Illness Relief Fund

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(Photo credit: Taylor Slaughter)

(Photo credit: Taylor Slaughter)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CBS Charlotte) — The city of Charlotte is home to many great charities.

While the big-named charities are well-known and attract a lot of media attention, there are a plethora of smaller charities who are just as worthy of the spotlight — if not more worthy. In truth, a lot of local philanthropic efforts are purely from the heart, but many of these efforts are often overshadowed by bigger charities.

This month, CBS Charlotte is shining our Monthly Charity Spotlight on Taylor Slaughter. Five months ago, Slaughter founded the Chronic Illness Relief Fund.

A Brief Bio About Taylor

“I am 29 years old and I am from High Point, NC. I graduated in 2005 from Hollins University with a B.A. in Political Science and a B.A. in Communication Studies. Since then, I have lived in 7 different states and have held numerous and varied jobs ranging from logistics and advertising sales to farm management and many years in the service industry, but I have spent the vast majority of my adult life riding horses for a living. I started riding when I was 5 and showjumping was the career path I chose for myself immediately after my first lesson.

After the onset of my illness in 2007, life as a professional athlete became increasingly difficult to maintain due to my illness and its degenerative nature. Finally, in 2011, complications from my illness made life as a professional rider impossible and I was forced into early retirement. It was painful for me, but I am so very grateful for the interesting (to say the least) path my life has taken thus far because it has opened me up to experience the reward that comes with choosing to  help others as your life path. I can’t put into words how much I love what I do and how rewarding this work is; it’s like nothing else I’ve ever felt and I am more inspired by this chapter in my life than I ever have been before. Looking forward to the future is a great feeling.”

Recently, we had a chance to meet up with Taylor to learn about her organization, where her inspiration comes from, and how you can help her in her efforts:

Q. Where did the idea to start a charity come from? What inspired you?

A. My inspiration came from my own battle with chronic illness. When I was hospitalized for two weeks for heart surgery due to a blood clot and suffered from nine minor strokes in the six months following that event, I knew my life was going to get much more difficult, but I had severely underestimated the severity and magnitude of that difficulty.

From that moment, I had a team of doctors and went through about a year of testing here in Charlotte at Presbyterian and CMC and in Durham at Duke. I was on about 15 different medications and was constantly ill. During this time, I had to quit my job because I was obviously unable to work and soon found myself without a means to fund my cost of living expenses like food, electricity, and every other basic and essential need.

Through these struggles, I realized that there is a cycle of chronic illness and that cycle causes what I have termed “cumulative poverty.” This simply means that, over time, avoiding poverty and reliance on governmental programs becomes impossible.

Last year I was living off of food stamps and investing the small amount of funds I had managed to save during my last well period on applying for disability. SSD is a fabulous initiative and am so grateful it’s available, but it’s a raw deal. Applicants are unable to work (ridiculous) during the application period, receive minimal funds, and are subject to government control over their personal health practices, and the list goes on.

Mid-application, I decided to invest my time and efforts in creating a job for myself since I am wholly unemployable. I knew I had too much to offer this world to be limited by the confinements of SSD; I wanted to use my skills, talents, and tenacity to secure an independent future for myself. I created a contract management company, Vogue Management Services, so that I could work and live on my terms, which is my only option for generating income of any kind. In an effort to raise awareness for my new enterprise as well as for Lupus (my disease,) I decided that my company would host a fundraising event for lupus research. Lupus research is a wonderful cause and is obviously a cause close to my heart, but it left me wanting so much more.

During this planning process, I became very aware of the fact that it was the time to act; I wanted to implement my ideas to accomplish the goal of helping people with chronic illness live better lives; I made my life a better place and I knew that I had all of the necessary components to create programs that help others suffering from CI live happier, higher-quality lives as well. The idea for CIRF woke me up in the middle of the night and I immediately got out of bed, wrote everything down, and a few hours later, CIRF was born. Over the next two months, I spent all of my time and energy turning these ideas into reality.

I wanted to create a company that, unlike most, was accessible to anybody who is ill, regardless of the type of illness or diagnosis; the diagnostic process is often the most debilitating aspect of the process of coming to terms with your new life as a sick person—financially, mentally, and emotionally. Most charitable organizations require a firm diagnosis for a specific illness and proof from a doctor to that effect, which, in my opinion, is a massive problem.

I also wanted the application process to be free of charge and nontraditional. We want our applicants to show us their lives through stories, videos, photos, etc. We require that you prove you’re sick on a recurring basis; photos or copies of medical bills, hospital bracelets, or medical records—anything with your name, the date, and of a medical nature. We require that you send a photo or copy of your most recent tax return, even if it is a few years old, in order to show us that you want to contribute to the economy and the services and opportunities that our taxes provide us with. Finally, we want to know what type of assistance you’re looking for—groceries, car/home repairs, utilities, etc—and how that assistance would impact your life. And that’s it; no hoops, fees, or strings attached.

Q. How many other people assist the charity?

A. I have a wonderful support network of people committed to helping me, and my ventures, succeed. My mother has given more funds than she is capable of giving towards my efforts and CIRF has a few extremely generous and loyal donors, without whom CIRF wouldn’t exist. I have many talented supporters who all volunteer their time, skills, and efforts to the cause. There is absolutely no way that I could function without the overwhelming talent and support that comes from the people who believe in CIRF.  As the President and Founder, I am solely responsible for all concepts, initiatives, and efforts towards growth and development, awareness, marketing, and everything in between. Though I am at the helm, I am most certainly not alone.

Q. Do you generate a salary from the charity?

A. No. I do hope to eventually receive financial compensation for my efforts, but, for the time being, I believe that it is in the best interest of the company for all funds to be used to:

  1. A. Provide assistance to those in need
  2. B. Invest in the future

Q. What is the mission of your organization?

A. We help chronically ill patients live better lives by providing personally tailored support programs that cover cost-of-living expenses. We also provide support in any way we can— assistance finding gainful employment, assistance dealing with bureaucracies and their inherent red tape, researching low-cost medical care options in their area, finding support groups, connecting our applicants with any other charities or free programs that assist with education and personal development, and anything else that may be of benefit to their lives in general.

Q. How many people have you assisted through the charity?

A. CIRF has only been in motion since October and we started generating revenue that was significant enough to give assistance in January of this year. We are currently assisting two applicants.

Q. Where do you see the charity In two years?

A. My goals for CIRF are lofty, to say the least. I know from experience that I can only adapt to the circumstances I find myself in while simultaneously continuing to push towards the future; control is an illusion and I’m all too aware of that fact. I have no idea what the future holds, but I am inspired by the possibilities every day. I want to help people locally, nationally, and globally in order to change the way CI patients are treated and seen by the government, the medical community, and society as a whole. In 2015 I expect to be well on my way; I plan on starting a national campaign this year and I hope to share CIRF internationally as soon as our footing is stable in the US.

You can help the Chronic Illness Relief Fund by making a donation.

-Nichole Jaworski, CBS Charlotte

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