AT&T Pioneers, Winners for Life donate $5K to Gift of Life

AT&T Pioneers Ethel Jones Johnson, Angel Jones, Graylynn Viltz and Tonja Holmes

Representatives from AT&T Pioneers and Winners for Life presented a check for $5,000 to the Gift of Life on Wednesday, Sept. 7, at the nonprofit’s Dowlen Road office in Beaumont.

AT&T Pioneers is a benevolent volunteer network that has served the nation since 1911 through the support of Alexander Graham Bell, American inventor and one of the first 100 Pioneers in America. The organization strives to give back through community service, while also meeting the tangible needs of local individuals, according to a Gift of Life release.

Through a recent AT&T Cares Grant, the Pioneers have elected to support the Gift of Life and its partner Winners for Life to further the organizations’ mission to provide lifesaving breast cancer screenings and education to medically underserved Southeast Texas women.

“We have enjoyed a relationship for 10 plus years with Winners for Life. They’re our sister organization in Port Arthur,” said Norma Sampson, executive director at Julie Rogers Gift of Life. “Their organizer was Dr. Wini Frelow, a breast cancer survivor who has been instrumental in our program.”

After a battle with breast cancer in 2001, Frelow began local breast cancer education and support group Winners for Life with the support of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

“When we first started, we had ladies in the church who had breast cancer but wouldn’t talk about it,” said Elvira Narcisse, chairperson of Winners for Life, who said Gift of Life’s cause is important to her, personally, because both her mother and niece had experienced breast cancer. “We usually have a bake sale, a garage sale and we go out in the community and get donations. Then, we have a cancer seminar in April. We usually have 200-250 ladies attend. About 45-50 are breast cancer survivors.”

The organization has sponsored annual seminars for more than a decade since and raised over $35,000, which in collaboration with the Julie Rogers Gift of Life Program, has made available free mammograms and clinical breast exams for medically underserved Port Arthur women.

“Through her steadfast dedication to the women of Port Arthur, she developed a partnership with the Gift of Life,” Sampson said. “(Winners for Life) have been helping us for years, whether financially or by volunteering to help us in our various program initiatives.”

Frelow passed away in 2013 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, but her cause continues on through the dedicated members of Winners for Life.

Graylynn Viltz, vice president of AT&T Pioneers South Texas Chapter, is no stranger to Winners for Life.

Viltz’s grandmother Anna Washington had breast cancer, inspiring his mother and sister to become involved with Winners for Life.

“Each year AT&T gives a grant … for the Pioneers to give to different charities,” Viltz said.

Because he had been involved with Winners for Life with his mother and sister, Viltz knew firsthand the support the organization provided to women diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I had the opportunity to put a word in for the organization to get the funds,” he said.

“Graylynn wanted AT&T Pioneers’ community cause to be directed to an organization that he could see the true local impact of that service,” Sampson said. “This donation will be a sizeable amount to help offset the increasing cost that we’ve been receiving as of late. … This funding will not only help pay for the increased costs of our mammograms, but also for our support services.”

For more information about AT&T Pioneers, visit For more information about the Gift of Life, visit


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