Nanaimo’s hospital auxiliary has been on a mission to boost care for 115 years, but make no mistake – this isn’t the cake-baking, craft-making ladies’ organization it used to be.
With two thriving retail businesses and 270 members, the Nanaimo Auxiliary to the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital contributes hundreds of thousands of dollars annually toward improvements.
In March, the group handed the Nanaimo and District Hospital Foundation $250,000 for two new operating rooms at the hospital but each year raises close to $750,000.
“People think of the auxiliary as it was many years ago, which was ladies doing crafts and baking cakes and raising some funds, but we have two thriving retail businesses … so it allows us to make quite large contributions to the hospital,” said Phil Robling, the non-profit’s first male president.
His vision is to make the community more aware of who they are and do more to recognize volunteers, who donated more than 49,000 hours last year alone, he said.
The auxiliary began as a ladies organization at the turn of the 20th century, with volunteers helping to make sheets and sew nightgowns. Today, male and female volunteers help with everything from manning an information desk to mentorship of young hospital helpers and the delivery of books and flowers. They also run the auxiliary gift shop and a thrift store, which raises money for major hospital projects and the everyday needs of departments, like wheelchairs, Kleenex and even meal vouchers.
“It all helps to make people’s experience in the hospital a little less traumatic … than it might have been,” he said.
Pamela Mar has been wearing the non-profit’s signature red jacket as a volunteer for 44 years and has published a book on the auxiliary’s history.
Volunteers are an important component of the hospital, delivering care and comfort, and work far harder than most realize, according to Mar, who joined when she first moved to Nanaimo in 1971.
“The real value of the auxiliary, I think, is to be there as helpers to the staff; to fill in spaces that they can’t cope [with] within their day,” she said.
The organization is looking for more volunteers. For membership information, please call 250-755-7637.