Deacon José Moronta and Mariela Labrador have organized a cancer support group that helps break down the language barrier for Spanish-speaking people. They group meets at St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church the third Thursday of each month. (Photo: Charmaine George)

When Mariela Labrador, a long-time parishioner of St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church on Cross Creek Blvd., found herself a caregiver for a loved one with cancer, she looked around for resources and support from her community.

As a native Spanish-language speaker, she found it helpful to connect with others who understood what she was going through, and where she could communicate without any language barrier.

She found Latinos Unidos Por Un Nuveo Amanecer (Latinos United for a New Dawn, or LUNA) online at LUNA’s mission is to reach out to the Spanish-speaking community to help cancer patients, survivors and their families.

Over time, Mariela began volunteering for the organization, which has been part of the Tampa Bay community for more than 20 years, and eventually, she became a member of the organization’s Board of Directors.

Earlier this year, Mariela says, she decided to connect her work with LUNA to her church and organized a support group to meet at St. Mark’s for Spanish speakers who are facing cancer.

She says she hopes to grow the group to be large enough to support bringing in guest speakers on relevant topics, such as nutrition, relaxation, or pain management. But, at this time, she is focusing on building relationships and growing the group so people can share experiences and lean on each other.

“At this point, I’m concentrating on reaching out to the community and identifying the needs,” Mariela says.

The local LUNA group meets at St. Mark’s on the third Thursday of each month, from 6:30 p.m.-8 p.m.

While the group took a break over the summer, its next meeting will be held on Thursday, September 15. All are welcome to attend. You do not have to attend St. Mark’s or be of any particular faith tradition to participate in the support group, and there is no need to RSVP in advance.

Anyone who has questions or needs more information, can call the church at (813) 907-7746.

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