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Gainer honored for service

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Peggy Gainer was honored at a luncheon Tuesday celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Newton Medical Center Auxiliary. Gainer, the auxiliary's only charter member who is still active, was presented with a photo of a new sign outside the auxiliary office, which has been renamed The Gainer Center, and an artist's rendering of the building.

Staff Photo: Crystal Tatum. Peggy Gainer was honored at a luncheon Tuesday celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Newton Medical Center Auxiliary. Gainer, the auxiliary's only charter member who is still active, was presented with a photo of a new sign outside the auxiliary office, which has been renamed The Gainer Center, and an artist's rendering of the building.

COVINGTON -- For 50 years, Peggy Gainer has given of her time, money and talents to the Newton Medical Center Auxiliary. On Tuesday, the organization's 200-plus members gave something very special to her.

The auxiliary office has been renamed The Gainer Center, it was announced at a luncheon at First Baptist Church of Covington celebrating the auxiliary's 50th anniversary. Gainer was presented with a photo of the new sign bearing her name and an artist's rendering of the building.

The only charter member still active in the organization, Gainer was the auxiliary's first treasurer. At that time, "we had very little to treasure" she joked.

"Our first project was furnishing custom-made draperies for the main lobby which faced Tate Street, the main entrance at the time. Our projects and efforts over the years have been much more ambitious and represent millions of dollars raised ... Our community in Covington has joined hands with us making many projects possible," she said.

Gainer served as president from 1980 to 1982. Hospital Administrator Jim Weadick recalled getting a visit from Gainer one day in 1984, when he had been on the job for about a month.

"She said, 'I know you've got a lot to think about and worry about and do, but we've got to breathe some life into the auxiliary,' ... I always sort of took that as my marching orders," Weadick said.

Gainer is the founder of the auxiliary's Cinderella Shop that sells "nearly new" items, has served in nearly every auxiliary office, and her fellow members said they simply couldn't begin to estimate the amount of hours she's put in or the number of events she's attended.

"It's been the honor and privilege of my life to serve this hospital. I love this community and I love this hospital," Gainer said.

Since it was founded in 1960 by Louly Fowler, the auxiliary has raised nearly $2 million for various projects, including the Women's Diagnostic Center. Its current project is the hospital's new Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Volunteers serve in 31 areas of the hospital, doing everything from manning the gift shop to answering phones, escorting patients to their procedures and warming robes for patients to wear.

"There's something for everyone there. If you want to be involved with patients or if you want to work behind the scenes, there's something there at the hospital for you to do," said Cathy Williams, who coordinates the First Steps program to educate new mothers.

The auxiliary also has two student programs for high-schoolers.

"I think if Mrs. Fowler was alive today, she would say, 'Boy am I proud of them. They've done a sterling, sterling job,'" Weadick said.