Peggy Gainer remembers when Newton Medical Center Auxiliary members sold candy from baskets in order to raise money for the hospital. The service group's first purchase, a meal cart, helped the volunteers to transport food (much of it donated by the auxiliary) from the basement cafeteria to patients' rooms on other levels of the hospital.
While fundraising strategies and volunteer duties have changed over the years for the NMC Auxiliary, the spirit in which these activities are accomplished has not.
"Next to church and family, it's the most important outreach for me," said Gainer, the only living charter member of the NMC Auxiliary, which is celebrating 50 years of operation this year. "I don't think you can put a price on it."
The NMC Auxiliary is comprised of roughly 225 volunteers who work in about 30 of the hospital's departments, aiding staff and patients. They transport patients in wheelchairs and prepare women for mammograms. They run the hospital's two gift shops, the HOPE Boutique (for breast cancer survivors) and a nearly new store. They ready rooms for incoming emergency room patients. They bring warm blankets to patients and their families.
The auxiliary contributes more than 32,000 volunteer hours annually.
"From my perspective, I feel like they make a tremendous difference in the life of the hospital. They are support to staff, patients and visitors. It would be rather empty without them," said Martha Taylor, who has served as NMC director of volunteer services for 25 years.
"Our administrator, Jim Weadick, says it's a wonderful way to bring the community to the hospital and the hospital to the community."
A variety of people comprise the NMC Auxiliary, from retired individuals to stay-at-home mothers to those looking to stay involved with community while they are in between jobs. Taylor said one of the reasons the auxiliary is so successful is because the volunteers spend time in critical parts of the hospital, whether that be emergency room, radiology or the cardiopulmonary unit.
"Our administration values our volunteers and allows them to be in areas that are non-traditional," said Taylor.
NMC Auxiliary President Frances Rogers, a retired Newton High School English teacher, spends her volunteer hours comforting children in post-surgery. She also meets with first-time mothers to discuss topics such as the effects of second-hand smoke on children, car seat safety and the importance of reading to children.
"I do feel like I'm making a difference, that I'm helping families," said Rogers. "It's been a wonderful way to be involved in the community and I've made so many friends through the auxiliary."
Taylor said sometimes patients ask volunteers for items that typically they might be hesitant to request from nurses. The requests often occur when volunteers are delivering ice from room to room.
"The volunteers better able us to meet patients' needs. It's that bridge we're able to provide," Taylor said.
The other component to the auxiliary's service to NMC is fundraising. The group just completed a $500,000 fundraising effort to purchase a digital mammography machine and are currently working on procuring $350,000 to purchase equipment for the neonatal intensive care unit.
During its history, the NMC Auxiliary, which began with a 25-member group of women dedicated to establishing a hospital in Newton County, has raised $2 million for equipment. In the past, through bridge parties, stage productions and fashion shows, and in the present, via galas, golf tournaments and barbecues, the NMC Auxiliary has boosted the hospital's ability to provide healthcare to the community.
Is the NMC Auxiliary an indispensable part of the hospital?
"From a volunteer services director standpoint, I'd like to think so. We think they're pretty special," said Taylor.
For more information about volunteering or to purchase tickets for a fundraiser, call the NMC Volunteer Services Office at 770-788-6553.