What do you picture when you hear “Hospital Auxiliaries”?
Do you imagine a solitary, elderly woman knitting quietly in a chair? Or do you picture an army of dedicated individuals, faithfully pouring millions of dollars and thousands of hours into ensuring the people in their region have the very best medical care possible?
There is a common misconception about the value and function of a Hospital Auxiliary, but the health care team at Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) knows that their high standard of care and the vital equipment needed to accomplish that care, would not be possible without these dedicated volunteers.
RIH is incredibly fortunate to have not one, but two Hospital Auxiliary groups serving the Kamloops area. Over the course of many decades the Afternoon and Evening Auxiliaries have shown unwavering dedication to their cause and continue to surpass themselves in generosity.
While the groups have always made substantial financial contributions toward RIH Foundation, they have now, for the first time, each made impressive five year pledges that will collectively raise $2.5 million for both current patient care needs and state-of-the-art equipment for the Patient Care Tower-with $1.65 million coming from the Afternoon Auxiliary and $850,000 coming from the Evening Auxiliary.
The Afternoon Auxiliary to RIH was established in 1899 by the wives of doctors who had a clear vision that continues to this day: “Our mission is to provide special patient care equipment for Royal Inland Hospital”. This is accomplished through the tireless service of over 160 volunteers in Kamloops; women and men, ranging from retirees to students, who have made the purchase of beds, stretchers, bone density machines, holter monitor systems, scopes, surgical equipment, furniture and much more possible.
Currently, two key members of the Afternoon Auxiliary to the Royal Inland Hospital are President, Lynn Littlejohns and Secretary, Kathie Ayotte. “It takes a lot of work to make these kinds of goals happen”, says Littlejohns. “We pledge for the equipment according to the needs of the hospital and then fundraise to the pledge. Our goal is to always meet the commitments we made for the care that people deserve.”
This ambitious and dedicated group, who are always looking for volunteers from any demographic, plan to accomplish their $1.65 million pledge to RIH Foundation by continuing to successfully fundraise through the Victoria Street Thrift Seller, the RIH gift store and mobile carts, and their unique vendor program which partners with home-based businesses who donate back 15% of their earnings.
“We’re all going to be using the facilities one day,” says Littlejohns, who has been volunteering for the Auxiliary for 17+ years. “If we don’t buy some of these necessary items it just won’t get purchased because RIH doesn’t have the money to do it on their own.”
But it isn’t just the critical need that keeps Littlejohns and Ayotte invested. With this act of faithful service to a common purpose comes the added benefit of friendship and community. “After becoming a widow I found that I needed a social network,” explains Littlejohns. “The outcome of my efforts and what it did for people in need (was) rewarding and it makes you realize what you’re capable of; it’s good for your self esteem”.
“Through volunteering for (the Auxiliary) people are able to make new friends and meet others who care about what you care about. That’s important, especially in our stage of life,” says Ayotte, whose involvement with the Auxiliary came about after contacting Volunteer Kamloops.
“This was out of my comfort zone, but I realized very quickly that I was more capable than I thought and my confidence built...and when I realized how much money the Auxiliary raised for the needs of the hospital I became even more invested”.
To that end, both Littlejohns and Ayotte are excited about the possibilities for fundraising that will come with the new Patient Care Tower. “We’re very hopeful that when the new building is complete, we will have an improved location for the gift shop and vendor program that will generate more traffic and continue to build on the successful fundraising efforts of both Auxiliaries,'' says Littlejohns, adding conspiratorially, “Wait ‘til you meet Jenny from the Evening Auxiliary! Those women have a lot of fun!”
And Jenny Quince, currently serving in her 12th year as President of the Evening Auxiliary to RIH, did not disappoint.
The Evening Auxiliary, which is currently manned by 20 close-knit volunteers, was established in 1962 by a group of women who also wished to give back. “(They) were a younger group of women who worked outside the home or had babies and wanted to form an association but couldn’t meet in the afternoon - so they started meeting in the evening”, says Quince who, having a young daughter herself and having worked in the healthcare field, joined the Auxiliary in 1982. “The vision was to assist in purchasing equipment, or whatever was needed to support RIH, with an affinity toward delivery, as a lot of members were young mothers.”
And with that stalwart vision, the Evening Auxiliary has used ingenuity and forward-thinking to generate the funds that have allowed them to contribute both state-of-the-art equipment and, in Quince’s words, “the little stuff that makes a big difference.''
Whether it has been x-ray machines, birthing beds, bladder scans, vital signs monitors, scopes or anything between, Quince says that the Auxiliary is, “Proud of any contribution we make. It doesn’t have to be big or glamorous, but each year we do something for labour and delivery; that’s our passion,” adding, “In the new tower you’ll see our largest contribution in the labour suites and we’re really excited about it.
The Evening Auxiliary has pledged $850,000 to RIH Foundation over the next five years. The group plans to generate those funds through continuing innovative contract work like leasing the on-site coffee shop, vending machines and in-room TVs at RIH as well as their annual Craft-a-Fair, which is the largest craft fair in British Columbia and a massive undertaking for the volunteers who always welcome additional helping hands for the event.
With the tremendous effort and dedication required to make these goals achievable, one wonders what propels Quince and her team to continue? “It’s a great cause, and the pride I have in the work that I do and the contribution I make is so rewarding. To sit in the appreciation banquet at RIH each year and think, ‘Yes. I’ve made a difference’ is a wonderful thing.”
Quince, like Littlejohns and Ayotte, also adds that a lot of the value in the job also comes from the extraordinary group that she serves with and speaks of their compassionate hearts, loyal commitment and endless fun. “What you get out of working with the other people involved is truly indescribable.”
“We’re proud of our dedication and commitment to fundraising for the hospital because we’re very proud of our hospital,” says Quince. “You hear the negative stuff, but there are so many positive things that happen in RIH every day and we’re very fortunate to have the care we do.”
In addition to providing medical equipment for the hospital, both Auxiliaries are also proud of their partnerships with students in our community. Whether they are applying in the Fall to volunteer (which benefits resumes/applications) or are entering the medical field and take advantage of the Auxiliaries’ annual bursary opportunities, the partnership is mutually beneficial.
Both organizations expressed their eagerness and gratitude to continue working in thriving partnerships to meet their collective $2.5 million commitment and ensure that RIH is known for its exceptional standards of equipment, care and patient comfort.
It’s with deep gratitude on behalf of both themselves and the community that RIH Foundation offers their thanks and appreciation to this army of mighty volunteers who will leave a legacy of love and service that will endure for many more decades to come.
If you are interested in learning more or volunteering with an Auxiliary, please call their office at 250-314-2331.