Skip to content

Auxiliary Society for Comox Valley Healthcare celebrates 110 years of giving

11 local charities share $110,000 from ASCVH at special anniversary presentation

The Auxiliary Society for Comox Valley Healthcare is celebrating 110 years of giving in a most appropriate manner: by giving $110,000 to local charities.

The ASCVH has selected 11 worthy local non-profits to receive $10,000 each. The presentation took place on Tuesday, April 16, in recognition of Volunteer Week.

The groups receiving $10,000 each include:

• Wheels for Wellness

• Comox Valley Child Development Association

• Comox Valley Lifeline Society

• Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society

Comox Valley Senior Support Society

• Sonshine Lunch Club

• Comox Valley Food Bank

• Dawn to Dawn Action Against Homelessness

• Comox Valley Search and Rescue

• Comox Bay Care Society Care-A-Van

• Eureka Support Society

ASCVH president Cathie Poje said the groups were hand-picked by the society.

History of the ASCVH

The ASCVH is among the oldest (if not the oldest) community service groups in the Comox Valley.

“Our auxiliary started in March of 1914,” said Poje. “The old St. Joe’s hospital started with four nuns - sisters of St. Joseph - that were asked to come out here from Ontario, to open the hospital. They opened the hospital in the fall of 1913 in a little cottage on the site where (The Views) is right now. The following spring, half a dozen women formed the auxiliary.”

In its early days, the auxiliary provided services such as sheet mending for the hospital, and reading to the patients. One of their earliest fundraisers was through canning fruits and vegetables.

“These ladies were the ‘who’s who’ of the Comox Valley - you had to be somebody to belong to this elite group,” said Poje.

What started as a group of six volunteers has ballooned into 124 this year.

“The number of volunteers dwindled during COVID, like everything else in the world,” said Poje. “I think our highest number ever (of active volunteers) was 138. So we’re pretty close.”

These days the ASCVH makes the majority of its money through the Valley Gift Shop at Comox Valley Hospital and the Auxiliary Thrift Shop at St. Joseph’s.

“The majority of our money goes to the hospital, the Views, Cumberland Lodge, Glacier View Lodge, and public health, but to celebrate our 110 years, we have chosen 11 other organizations to give money to,” said Poje. “One of the reasons we wanted to do this is to get our name out more. None of these organizations ever approached us. We had about 35 organizations on our list, and voted on it. We wanted a variety and with the 11 groups we have chosen, there’s children, Indigenous, seniors, the unhoused, mental health all represented. We tried to cover a lot of areas.”


The following is a brief description of each of the groups, as well as some details of how they plan on using the money.

Wheels for Wellness

The Wheels for Wellness Society provides transportation to centralized medical appointments for those requiring it.

In 2023, the service was used by 18,000 passengers.

Wheels for Wellness founder Don Buchner accepted the cheque on behalf of the society, explaining that the money will go toward the purchase of a new vehicle, as many of the fleet’s vehicles are “miling out.”

Comox Valley Child Development Association

The CVCDA brings services to young children, youth and adults with diverse abilities, through programs such as early intervention, occupational and physiotherapy, as well as The Autism Program.

“That’s where our money will go - to help those children,” said CVCDA president, Diane Daigle.

Comox Valley Lifeline Society

The Comox Valley Lifeline Society provides Lifeline (personal emergency response system) services to a variety of individuals who may feel reassured that help is available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This $10,000 is going to go to our subsidy assistance program, to provide Lifeline services to our clients who couldn’t otherwise afford it,” executive director Denise Metcalfe.

Comox Valley Therapeutic Riding Society

The CVTRS provides equine-related therapy and recreation for children and adults with diverse abilities. It operates out of the Comox Valley Exhibition grounds.

Program co-ordinator Hillary Doucette said the funds received will go toward eliminating barriers to ensure all their clients get to take advantage of the programs.

“As we all know, the cost of everything has increased exponentially and we believe everybody deserves a seat in a saddle, but not everybody is able to meet the funds to ride a horse.”

Comox Valley Senior Support

The Comox Valley Senior Support helps older adults who are experiencing isolation and loneliness, or who are feeling vulnerable due to challenging situations.

Since the onset of COVID, the CVSS has become a champion of food security for seniors. The group delivers food to 80 seniors a week, with the help of LUSH Valley volunteers, who do the cooking.

Board chair Gini Eyres said the money was nothing short of a godsend.

“We were just finishing up our budget for the year in January, and LUSH needed more money, because food costs more. They need $20,000 a year to (meet our needs). Last month, we had managed to raise $10,000, but we were still $10,000 short. So this is going to pay for the food for 80 people from June 1 to December 31.”

Sonshine Lunch Club

The Sonshine Lunch Club is the Comox Valley’s largest soup kitchen, supplying nourishing lunches to the community’s most vulnerable, three days a week. It operates out of St. George’s United Church in downtown Courtenay.

“We feed nutritious meals but more importantly I think it’s a place to come and belong,” said president Kevin Elsasser. “So this money is going to go into food, so thank you so much.”

Comox Valley Food Bank

The needs for the Comox Valley Food Bank have increased by 88 per cent in the past couple of years.

“Currently we have about 3,800 visits to the food bank every month,” said executive director Dave Reynolds. “We have a hamper program, a food delivery program… a farming program, and we also support 16 other agencies in the Valley with their food programs as well.”

Reynolds said the cash infusion from the ASCVH will go toward a commercial-grade food vacuum sealer, to help better preserve their perishable items.

Dawn to Dawn Action Against Homelessness

Dawn to Dawn directly helps individuals by taking direct action to solve immediate problems regarding homelessness, supporting their client base to stay housed - including counselling, rental subsidies, etc.

The funds received will go toward the Gukwas sa Wagalus Rainbow House. That project will include space for five youth within the LGBTQ community.

Comox Valley Search and Rescue

CVSAR provides a wide range of search and rescue services, including rope and swift water rescue, avalanche rescue, and first aid. Its coverage area ranges from Oyster River in the north to Cook Creek in the south and from Buttle Lake in the west to the Georgia Strait in the east, including Denman and Hornby Islands. It also offers mutual aid to other SAR organizations on Vancouver Island and beyond.

Treasurer Bronwen Beedle said the $10,000 will go toward training and medical equipment - particularly backboard splints.

“We want to buy a pediatric one, because the ones we have are all adult (sized),” said Beedle. “We actually want a couple of different sizes, because the size that fits a six-foot, 240-pound man does not fit a 5’2, 130-pound female.”

Comox Bay Care Society Care-A-Van

The Comox Bay Care Society Care-A-Van is a community-funded mobile outreach health unit, providing no-fee health care and social development services directly to people on the streets of Comox Valley. President Patricia Edgar said the funds will help purchase the medical equipment needed to supply the van.

Eureka Support Society

The Eureka Support Society is a resource centre for adults with persistent mental health issues.

Executive director Brennan Day said the money will go towards updating the clubhouse on Fourth Street.


ASCVH in the community

Some areas of health care that receive funding from the ASCVH are North Island Hospital Comox Valley, hospital equipment, patient comforts in the Emergency Department, the Wellness Clinic, Psychiatry and the Transitional Care Unit.

In 2023, the ASCVH gave out more than $350,000 to health care in the Comox Valley.

“So when people are buying their $10 worth of stuff at the thrift store, they should know that 100 per cent of that money goes back into the community,” said Poje.

Thrift shop a popular outlet

The Auxiliary Thrift Shop is somewhat of a Comox Valley institution in its own right. The support the community offers for the second-hand store is unmatched. The store is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and most days the lineup to get in starts at 9:30, rain or shine.

Poje credits the volunteers for the success of the thrift store.

“Our volunteers are very dedicated,” she said. “We have excellent prices on all our goods, and the shop is always clean and well organized. Those are the comments we get from people all the time. ‘It doesn’t even smell like a thrift shop,’ people say.

“I had one lady tell me a couple of weeks ago when I was in there that she was in a really bad mood, not happy at all, and decided to wander through the thrift store. She didn’t buy anything, but said ‘after being in there for 20 minutes, my whole mood changed completely, because the staff was so friendly and everybody was in a good mood.’ She said her whole day improved after being there. Everybody gets along, there are a lot of giggles going on all the time.”

Volunteers are always welcome at the Auxiliary Society for Comox Valley Healthcare. For more information on volunteering, or to pick up an application, visit either the thrift store or the hospital gift shop.

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 24 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
Read more