LEWISTON — Almost exactly one year after the Dempsey Center announced plans to separate from Central Maine Healthcare and merge with Cancer Community Center in South Portland, that merger is complete.
The Dempsey Center separated from CMHC several months ago. It announced Monday that Cancer Community Center and the Dempsey Center legally merged on July 1.
The Cancer Community Center will be known as Dempsey Center South Portland. The local facility will be called Dempsey Center Lewiston.
Together, they will be called the Dempsey Centers.
Both centers provide free support to cancer patients and their families. Cancer Community Center had served about 1,200 a year while the Dempsey Center served more than 4,000.
The merger was expected to be finalized last winter, but “everything just took a little longer than expected,” spokeswoman Nancy Audet said.
Founded in 2008, the Dempsey Center — then called The Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope & Healing — was created in partnership with Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston to help cancer patients and their families. Actor Patrick Dempsey and his siblings, who grew up in Buckfield, helped found the center in honor of their mother.
Amanda Dempsey was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997 and battled the disease for 17 years. She died in 2014 at age 79.
The center provides free cancer support, education and complementary therapies, such as massage, regardless of where patients and families live and regardless of from which hospital patients receive their treatment.
Cancer Community Center was founded 20 years ago by Jane Staley, a Maine woman who had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1994. With help from friends and donors, Staley created an independent nonprofit to provide free help and support to adults dealing with cancer.
Little change is expected at the Lewiston center. It remains in the same Lowell Street building — now as a renter — and will maintain programs and services. The Dempsey Challenge, the center’s largest fundraiser and one of the biggest annual events in the Twin Cities, will not be affected by the merger, though money raised will now support both locations.
The South Portland center has been shut down for the past week as new signs are posted and the building is painted in Dempsey Center colors. That center is expected to offer new programs and services in the future, including counseling.
Wendy Tardif continues to serve the Dempsey Centers as executive director. Patrick Dempsey said he will be more involved with the merged organization. He will hold a permanent seat on the new board of directors.
“We know our work in Maine will never be done, we see the potential to replicate this model throughout Maine and beyond in some capacity in the future. By working together, the possibilities are endless,” Dempsey said in a statement released Monday.
In the first year following the merger, the combined centers are projected to provide service to more than 5,000 people.