Cancer Support Community Program Director Retires, Successor Chosen

After 13 years with Cancer Support Community Greater San Gabriel Valley (“CSC”), Program Director Laura Wending is retiring at the end of July 2020. Throughout her career, Laura has been instrumental in increasing the number of people CSC is serving to record levels. During her tenure, she worked diligently to bring support, education, and hope to families facing cancer, practically doubling the number of people served at CSC’s facility. Laura was also instrumental in developing partnerships with local area hospitals, including City of Hope, where CSC continues to offer offsite support groups for cancer patients. She is also responsible for growing CSC’s Professional Advisory Network, comprised of medical experts in the community, who provide educational workshops for CSC’s members.

Rachel Koonse, M.A., LMFT, who interned with CSC from 2014 – 2016 and also worked at CSC from 2017 – 2019, has been chosen as Laura’s successor, to the delight of staff, group facilitators and CSC members.

“Never one to seek attention, Laura’s deeds are perhaps best known in the letters she has received from CSC members over the past 13 years. Most memorable are the letters from participants who credit Laura with ‘saving their lives’, by providing them with much needed support and hope as they face cancer. Laura’s compassion for every person who walks through our doors is genuine and remarkable. We’re going to miss her,” says Patricia Ostiller, CSC’s Executive Director.

“Laura has long been a champion for families in our community who are dealing with a cancer diagnosis. She greets every person who walks through our doors as if she had been waiting for them, eager to help them as they face this devastating diagnosis,” says Kal Antoun, President of CSC’s Board of Directors. 

“My thirteen years with CSC in various capacities has been the most meaningful and rewarding work in my career,” says Laura. “Supporting our members has brought me great joy, and the staff, colleagues, and volunteers at CSC have become my friends. I will miss them all dearly.”

“I’m honored and humbled to be succeeding Laura,” remarks Rachel. “I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Laura over the years and have firsthand knowledge of what the position requires. It has always been my desire and passion to return to CSC to continue Laura’s good work and to enhance program delivery for our members.”

“How do you replace Laura? We knew choosing Laura’s successor was not going to be easy, but Rachel just rose to the top of our list. Her diverse clinical experiences, tremendous leadership skills, and most importantly perhaps, the respect she has already earned with group facilitators and members, made her our first choice. And, happily, our selection was in accordance with Laura’s hope to see Rachel succeed her,” says Patricia.

“Rachel will hit the ground running,” says Laura. “Having interned and worked at CSC, Rachel knows our culture and loves our members. She is articulate, a wonderful ambassador for our work, a creative thinker, and I’m confident that she will continue to propel CSC’s program delivery to new heights.”

Going forward, Laura will serve in an advisory role to CSC. She will soon be relocating to San Diego County to be closer to her children and grandchildren. An event will be held later this year to celebrate Laura’s 13-year career and welcome Rachel’s return.

In the meantime, Rachel’s first day with us will be Monday, July 27th. We also offer our sincere thanks to Jill Searle for stepping in to assist CSC for the past two months. Jill’s dedicated and selfless work has been critical to the continued success of our program delivery. Thank you, Jill!