The Little Red Door provides support to cancer patients and their families. With a name rooted in multiple traditions, a little red door is a recognizable symbol of sanctuary. 

The Little Red Door, ca. 1940s
Credit: Indiana Historical Society.

The agency began operation in 1945 in World War II barracks with a red front door. Cancer carried a social stigma, and those needing assistance were referred to “the little red door.” Initially, the agency provided information on cancer symptoms. Later developments in public education and medical technology have challenged the agency to improve and enhance its programs and services. However, its central belief in the importance of providing direct services to cancer patients and their families has remained constant.

The agency provides a safe and supportive community center for those impacted by cancer. Focusing on service in four categories—wellness, support, boutique, and transportation, it attempts to reduce the physical, emotional, and financial burdens of cancer for medically underserved residents of central Indiana through direct services, navigation, and community outreach and education. Camps are offered for kids who have been impacted by cancer, as well as in-school educational programs to discourage smoking. The organization also focuses on prevention by providing educational materials, cancer screenings, and an informational program targeting the African American community, which is especially at risk.

In 2020, the Little Red Door Cancer Agency provided services for about 3,000 clients per year in both Indianapolis and Muncie on an average budget of close to $3 million, about half of which was supplied by United Way of Central Indiana. Its fundraising and relationship with United Way made possible the organization’s 2018 renovation of its facilities. In the $2.1 million improvements, the organization’s longtime home, standing at 1801 N. Meridian Street, has been updated and rearranged to better accommodate programing for ill clients. The improvements also allowed the agency to begin offering a wider range of programming, such as fitness and cooking classes.

Revised February 2021

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