PITTSFIELD -- Dana Dermody is not used to sitting down or receiving help. She's usually the one on the go and helping others.
This time, however, doctors say she has no choice.
The city resident and single mother who founded Project H.O.P.E.F.U.L. (High on Personal Excellence for Ultimate Living) and her own business as an independent contractor for A Fresh Start Cleaning Service, has had to leave work and philanthropic projects behind in order to heal and prepare for a series of surgeries to address the diseases that affected her colon and bowel.
From 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Dermody's friends are hosting a benefit for her at the Elks Lodge, located at 27 Union St., to help defray some of the living costs that she and her 13-year-old son will face while Dermody's out of work.
"I'm embarrassed even talking about it, but I'll graciously accept this for my son. I have no family around here, but my friends have been so kind," said Dermody, 50. "If I'm better and I'm able to, I'll go back to work as soon as I can."
Dermody told The Eagle she's been hospitalized about 15 times over the past five years. Back in December, she had a surgery which resulted in doctors removing three-quarters of her colon and half of her bowel.
"The good news is, all the disease is gone for now," said Dermody. She said she went back to work in February, only to find more complications and pain, namely due to scar tissue that's not healing properly.
"I've got a road of many surgeries ahead of me," she said.
Through Project H.O.P.E.F.U.L., she was able to help several city residents in need to get back on their feet and get things like food, clothing and furniture. She is also a past recipient of the "Unsung Heroine" award from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women.
Dermody said she prides herself on not being on welfare, and though she had income from her work and state health insurance, Dermody, as an independent contractor, said she had no additional benefits or security in wake of a health emergency like this.
"Anyone who knows Dana knows she is always the first one to lend a helping hand to anyone in need," her friends wrote on an event fundraising website. "It's our turn to help her now."
To reach Jenn Smith:
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On Twitter: @JennSmith_Ink