August 19, 2022

Clarke County Hospital Auxiliary with long history in need of more members

In April 1971, a group of Clarke County women who were interested in forming a Clarke County Hospital Auxiliary unit met to discuss just that.

At the time, Woodburn had two auxiliary units that assisted the hospital, but the one for Clarke County had been disbanded some years prior; Murray would also have an auxiliary unit for a short period of time.

Women from Osceola, Murray and Woodburn temporarily elected Julie Wilkin of Osceola as chairperson, Cleo O’Neall of Woodburn as vice-chair, and Essie Shaffer of Murray to be secretary-treasurer of the Clarke County Hospital Auxiliary unit. Committees for publicity and membership, by-laws, and projects were also created, with several area women being named to each.

On May 3, 1971, the first official meeting of the auxiliary was held, and 34 women became the charter members of the unit. The goal of the unit was to be a “service organization with membership open to both men and women. The hope is to be able to perform services that paid hospital personnel do not have time to do.”

In the 51 years since, the group of volunteers have done just that, be it assisting at the front desk by offering directions or walking patients/visitors to their destination, or holding a variety of fundraising events.

Fundraising

Of the fundraising ventures taken on by the auxiliary, the one people are likely most familiar with is the one you see right behind the front desk in the hospital lobby.

“The most obvious [responsibility] is the gift and snack shop,” said Communication and Foundation Manager Tom Bahls. “Bev [Foote] and a couple of other volunteers really manage that process.”

Foote and Sheila Buckingham are responsible for identifying the products needed, purchasing and stocking them into Hidden Treasures Snack Shop and Gift Shop, the proceeds of which go towards auxiliary scholarships. The scholarships, which are available to any student in Clarke County studying healthcare, have awarded an estimated $57,000 since 2006. In 2022, two Clarke students, one Murray student and one hospital employee received scholarships from the auxiliary.

While the gift shop, which opened in November of 1971, is the longest running means of raising money for the auxiliary, others have included an arts and crafts fair, ice cream social, blood drives, garage sales, and bake sales. In recent years an annual flower and plant sale and golf tournament have been fundraisers for the auxiliary; the latter is put on with the Clarke County Hospital’s Foundation. Bahls estimates that the golf tournament is the biggest fundraiser, bringing in between eight and twelve thousand dollars, and the plant sale sees close to $1,500.

Along with the scholarships, the proceeds of the various events also goes towards initiatives at the hospital. Two years ago, the auxiliary gave $7,5000 to cancer care, which helped with pharmacy improvements for the handling of toxic drugs. The auxiliary purchases the books that are handed out at annual child well-checks in the clinic. The plant sale raises between $1,400-$1,500, and they assist with the FIrecracker Fun Run 5K on the Fourth of July.

Past items either purchased or assisted in purchasing for the hospital, often in conjunction with the Woodburn Auxiliary, include money towards an EKG machine, a bilirubin light for the nursery (the hospital closed its obstetric unit at the start of 1990), car seats for newborns, beauty shop-like items for patients in long term care, and more. The Woodburn auxiliary in the past has created care trays and activities for long term patients, and today makes cards around the holidays to distribute to the patients.

“[We] try to help with equipment, with everything,” said auxiliary member Rosie Brand. “They need it, they let us know, and we see what we can come up with.”

One day sales at the hospital like Collective Goods and Scrubs on Wheels yield the auxiliary a percentage of the profits. Not all activities the auxiliary holds makes money, but it is important for them to be out and about in the community and creating a welcoming environment within the hospital.

Membership today

In 1974, the auxiliary had over 400 volunteers. In 2006, the number was approximately 90. Today, there are 12 to 15 active members with 35 to 40 inactive members. Like many things, the auxiliary was not unaffected by COVID.

When the hospital shut down in March 2020, so did the gift shop. It remained closed until the end of June 2021, and the number of active members decreased by nearly half. Due to a lack of volunteers, the gift shop is now only open half days. The auxiliary is looking for more involvement for not just the gift shop, but other events and day-to-day activities as well.

“We need some more bodies to support [the auxiliary’s] efforts,” said Bahls.

The current demographic of auxiliary members is those who are of retirement age, which is why member Marge Wambold said a lot of them joined in the first place.

“[We’d] been working in the public, and now we’re not,” Wambold reflected. “How can we stay in the public, stay in contact with people?”

“I love when younger people volunteer; I think it’s healthy for our patients, too,” said Bahls.

“There are so many people in this town, and people have never heard of it,” added Brand, of people’s unawareness about the auxiliary.

Members of the auxiliary often hold more than one role within the auxiliary, filling in when needed and helping out where they can. The auxiliary works closely with the hospital’s foundation, often raising money for the same things together.

How to get involved

Anyone is welcome to be a member - male or female - age 16 and older. All volunteers are required to undergo a modified onboarding process, adhering to HIPAA and patient privacy. Membership fees are $5 a year, and volunteer hours are up to the individual person. The auxiliary has several members who pay the fee as inactive members, simply because they enjoy being a part of the auxiliary.

“[You] pitch in when you can,” said current auxiliary president Janet Jurgenson, who also sits on the hospital’s foundation board.

“It makes you feel good to be a part of something that feels good,” said Wambold.

“The auxiliary is a vital part of what we do…being out there in the community, creating a welcoming environment for patients,” said Bahls. “We need volunteers; we want volunteers.”

Those who are interested are encouraged to contact Bahls at 641-342-5489 or email at tbahls@clarkehosp.org, Marge Wambold at 641-342-2634, or current president Janet Jurgenson at 641-414-2046

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.