KENT COUNTY, Mich. — For decades, Michelle Ripley has been working to help families affected by cystic fibrosis (CF). Her efforts are even more important amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"With these interesting times, we've been getting a lot of requests for help with rent, help with mortgages. Utilities is a big one that we've been helping with," Ripley told FOX 17 News. "Getting sick to them would be detrimental to [patients with CF], more so than it would be to us... a lot of them have been staying in their homes even well before we were told we had to."
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening genetic disorder, causing mucus to build up in the lungs and digestive system.
Ripley began working with the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation in the '90s. After ten years of volunteering, she decided to launch her own non-profit, Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis.
The organization's signature event, "Bid for Bachelors and Bachelorettes", has brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.
"In the last five years, we've raised over half a million dollars," Ripley said. "And I've been doing this for about 23 years, so I'm assuming it's in the million dollar range."
All that money does a lot of good in West Michigan, helping to lighten the load of families dealing with CF.
"We do things like care packages for kids when they're hospitalized, we pay medical bills, you name it we do it. We help with rent, with mortgage, utilities, medicines, gym memberships, transportation. Pretty much anything that they need."
"[Families] are appreciative...they're very thankful that we have this here."
Ripley has also been sending Meijer gift cards to help during the COVID-19 crisis.
She said her connection to the families is what keeps her going.
"What they deal with on a daily basis and the struggles they deal with, basically helps my passion to keep this going and helping them," she explained. "I'm hoping to keep this going, as long as I can do it."
To donate, or learn more about Friends and Families of Cystic Fibrosis, click here.
As the FOX 17 and Lake Michigan Credit Union Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Ripley is receiving a $300 prize.