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Picking a fight
Getting blueberries to stop cancer
0713 blueberry jean
Jean Blackburn shows how to pick the best berry based on size, pulp and high-wax content, which keeps them ripe longer. - photo by By Calli Arnold

Over the weekend, Blackburn Brothers Farm was full of activity after opening up its blueberry fields in an effort to fight breast cancer in Effingham County.

“I have learned that one in eight women will have breast cancer,” said Barbara Prosser, co-chair of the MAPP breast cancer workgroup and director of operations, compliance and integrity at Effingham Hospital.

As part of the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships project, the group has been learning about local vulnerabilities and obstacles surrounding breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, using a grant from Georgia Southern University designated for addressing public health in Effingham and Bulloch counties. One of their duties is to generate funds for women in the county who are underinsured and can’t afford breast exams, mammograms or breast cancer treatment.

“…(T)hey don’t realize that public health can refer them for a screening and help them out with that,” Prosser said. “But where the public health funding stops is if the woman needs treatment. So the screening, the diagnosis, is covered under those funds and then the treatment is another ‘gap’ — if you will — for women.”

Jean Blackburn is a human resources assistant at Effingham Hospital and a member of the MAPP breast cancer workgroup, along with Prosser and co-chair Norma Jean Morgan, among others. others. Her husband, Evans, is one of the owners of Blackburn Brothers Farm, and they offered to let people pick buckets of their freshly-ripened blueberries right from the bushes in exchange for a $20 donation that will help pay for mammograms for women who can’t afford it. Jean Blackburn was ready with plenty of recipe ideas for everyone who asked.

“We’d very much like to see them come forward earlier, because early detection is a lot more curable,” said Blackburn, sporting a hat and T-shirt with the pink ribbon, a breast cancer emblem, and the slogan “fight like a girl.”

Boy Scout Troop 295 was on hand selling concessions and assisting anyone who needed extra help or had questions. Concession funds went to their troop and they received community service hours along with a camping night near one of the Blackburn’s four ponds. Scout master Frank Patterson and assistant scout master Anthony Parker helped out visitors as well before taking the boys out on the pond to earn their merit badge for fishing with a catch and release of the catfish in one of the ponds.

“We’re hoping this is something we can do annually and jointly with the boy scouts to help them as well,” Prosser said.