No woman is poor who has friends. And few know the richness of friendship as well as Betty Levenbach. Last spring, when Levenbach was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cancer, she says, "I did everything I could to overcome it." But one prominent fear loomed: She believed she might lose her Westlake Village, California, business, Favorite Gifts, an educational toy, book, game and gift business she had been operating since 1991. "My business is my passion," Levenbach says. "My family wanted me to take it easy and concentrate on getting better. But I knew if I took a year or two years off, I wouldn't have a business."
That was when Connie Bereny, a fellow entrepreneurial woman and Levenbach's close friend, stepped in. Having read of the power of community spirit in a book called Share the Care (Fireside), Bereny held a meeting of women business owners who were united in their determination to save Levenbach's business. The group of 54 women--some friends, some strangers--formed committees to take care of everything from bookkeeping and banking to sales and transportation. "Some days, I just had the front door open, and they would come in and say, `We're going to the bank for you,' or `We sold this and made the invoice out,' " says Levenbach. When Levenbach worried about traveling to the nearest cancer research institute, she says the women assured her, " `We'll make a roster. Don't worry. You tell us how often you need to go, and we'll take you there.' "
With her cancer currently in remission, Levenbach and her circle of friends continue to reap the positive effects of the experience. "I know that everyone benefited, and I'm thrilled about that," she says. "Sometimes life is so tough, and you need to find things to feel good about." Levenbach offers her time to others in the community who are battling cancer.
"It's amazing in this day and age to see a community band together," Levenbach says. "This is not necessarily a community of people of the same faith or who live next door to each other but a community of women who got together to help. There was a groundswell, an outpouring of love. I'm just really very blessed."