Debbie Turner notes 20 years of helping thousands who have cancer


The Debbie Turner Cancer Care and Research Center of Apopka has come a long way in its two decades of existence, from the back seat of its founder’s car as a food-distributing ministry to now serving nearly 7,000 clients throughout Central Florida.

Debbie Turner, a former Orange County Public Schools teacher, launched her eponymous nonprofit organization in 1999 and obtained a license in 2000 to operate the food ministry as a nonprofit. In the beginning, the only clients served were those living in Apopka.

Early on, Turner moved her center to rental space at Florida Door Solutions on South Park Avenue. From there, the center moved to 229 E. Fifth Street, where the organization rented, then, in early 2017, the center purchased this property plus the house next door at 235 E. Fifth St.

As a brain cancer survivor who has been in remission since 2009 and the widow of Tom Turner, who died of cancer in April 2020 and is also known in the community for his work with the center, Debbie Turner has been on both sides of the fence in battling the disease. She acknowledges the impact her nonprofit has on the community.

The Debbie Turner Cancer Care and Research Center will mark its 20th anniversary on Valentine’s Day, Sunday, February 14. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the center has no events to observe the occasion. However, the center will continue its activity on social media, especially with releasing a special slideshow featuring photos of clients the nonprofit assisted, supporting businesses, and more.

“We appreciate the community helping us. Because of their support, we were able to serve the community for all these years,” Turner said.

The center, which relies on volunteers to operate, provides many services for cancer patients and their families such as free mammograms, specialist referrals, transportation, community outreach and health fairs, and counseling. Clients can get food and toiletries, as well as prosthetics, wigs, scarves and hats, as well as haircut and hairstyling, makeup, and stylist services. The center has a computer lab and library, and a playroom for children and families to use.

To date, the center has served 6,988 families, and about 135 families per week and 62 children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

To learn more about the Debbie Turner Cancer Care and Resource Center, to become a sponsor or to volunteer, visit The center is open weekdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m., but clients may be seen by appointment only. The phone number is 407-464-0978.

The story can be read in full beginning on page 1A of the Friday, February 12, issue of The Apopka Chief. The Apopka Chief and The Planter are weekly community newspapers, independently owned and family operated, that have served the greater Apopka area in Central Florida since 1923 and 1965 respectively. Subscribe today!