by Rick Denton

Over Honest Abe’s four decades, it always been the company’s philosophy to give back to the local community where the business originated. We were always aware of this goal and looking for ways to make a difference. An opportunity presented itself in in the early 2000s in which the company could help local victims in their battle with cancer.

Pennsylvania resident Crystal Horne joined the Honest Abe Independent Dealer Program in 2001. She was successful right away and became an important part of the business.

When her father was diagnosed with cancer in 2003, she wanted to do something. After talking with countless others and hearing their stories, she came up with an idea to produce a cookbook with favorite recipes collected by the dealers in the Honest Abe system.

She talked with Honest Abe V.P. Jeff Clements, who was then our Dealer Manager, about her idea. Everyone else encouraged her, and in a very short time, she received more than 400 recipes.

We decided to not limit the recipes to dealers but open the project to past customers, family members, product suppliers and mortgage companies. WSM Radio submitted recipes from music celebrities Tim McGraw, Randy Travis, Charlie Daniels, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Loretta Lynn, Wynonna, Sammy Kershaw, Lorrie Morgan-Kershaw, Brenda Lee, Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, Dolly Parton, Darryl Worley, Louise Mandrell, George Jones, Alison Krauss and Union Station.

After talking with Jerry Rouleau, President and Founder of the National Cancer Awareness Foundation, we decided that all the money raised from this endeavor would go to that foundation. The mission of the foundation was to generate cancer awareness and raise funds in order to provide financial aid to cancer patients and their families in times of personal crisis.

Crystal led this enormous effort and contributed untold hours of time toward the completion of this project. An anonymous donor donated the printing cost for the cookbook making the fundraising project 100 percent profit.

This allowed the foundation to be able to fulfill its mission with the funds raised on the sale of the cookbook. The cookbooks sold for $10 plus $2 shipping with all proceeds going to the National Cancer Awareness Foundation. Our cookbook project was very popular and well received. The first printing of cookbooks sold out, requiring a second printing. Again, an anonymous donor again paid the printing costs.

The National Cancer Awareness Foundation earlier premier fundraiser was Jan’s House of Hope, which took place in 2001. Honest Abe was a supporter of this event. Jerry’s wife, Jan, died of cancer. He had this idea to honor her memory.

Jan’s House of Hope was a 3,100 square foot, fully furnished dream home built on a barge. It toured the East Coast stopping at seven ports of call. The house, complete with a three-car garage, landscaped and with a car in the driveway, was featured on the “Today Show,” in People magazine, Home magazine, USA Today and in more than 300 newspapers and many TV broadcasts. It generated more than $15,000,000 worth of publicity for cancer awareness and raised approximately $2 million dollars for area hospice programs, cancer foundations and cancer hospitals.

The money collected from Honest Abe’s cookbook was sent to the National Cancer Awareness Foundation. A committee of Crystal Horne, Jerry Rouleau and Rick Denton administered the funds as names of cancer victims were submitted.

Many cancer victims received money. These victims were selected from our dealers, company employees, supplier, customer and local Clay County cancer patients. It helped them with their many expenses as they fought this dreaded disease. Everyone working for the company received such a blessing giving this money away. It was always so very well appreciated. We received many thank you letters and cards from grateful and appreciative recipients.

Within a few short years, our owner and founder, Doug Smith lost his battle with cancer and died on September 8, 2011.

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