HOSPITAL AUXILIARY PRESIDENT Audrey Greve

Hospital volunteers put in thousands of hours

St. Joseph's General Hospital celebrating its centennial this July

Each month, the Comox Valley Record is featuring articles about the history of St. Joseph’s General Hospital, which celebrates its centennial this year July. This is the final article of the series.

Sixty-thousand hours.

That’s the amount of time volunteers spend, per year, helping out at St. Joseph’s General Hospital.

“That’s about the equivalent of 35 full-time people,” says the hospital’s manager of volunteer services Pat Allan. “But, it’s spread over, in any month, between 280 and 300 people.”

A whopping 750 people volunteer at the hospital — including casual volunteers — some helping to fundraise money for important equipment, and others providing a huge variety of services, like reading to long-term care patients, working at the information desk and providing musical entertainment.

And this spirit of volunteerism at St. Joseph’s is certainly nothing new. In fact, as the hospital celebrates its centennial year this summer, the St. Joseph’s Hospital Auxiliary is gearing up to celebrate its centennial year in 2014.

Dona Cameron — who is a director on the hospital foundation board, was an executive on the Hospital Auxiliary during the 1990s, and worked as volunteer services manager for nearly a decade — remembers auxiliary fundraisers from when she was a child.

“The main fundraisers were strawberry tea, which used to be held on the hospital grounds — I remember as a child in the 50s, going to strawberry teas with my Mom and my aunts — and then they did raffles, they did cake sales, bake sales…” recalls Cameron.

“They would raise, maybe $1,800 or $2,000 — that was a lot of money in those days, a lot of money.”

Allan notes the auxiliary, which has over 100 members, now raises about $200,000 per year for the hospital. Auxilians volunteer at the hospital gift shop and thrift shop, as well as other areas of the hospital.

Meanwhile, Cameron notes others, who were not members of the Auxiliary, volunteered in other ways from the beginning of the hospital’s existence.

“The old volunteers in my Mother’s day… they gardened, they canned peas, and carrots, actually, and beans, I can remember that, and my memories goes back to the late ’40s,” says Cameron, adding others hemmed sheets, some would cut wood and deliver it to the hospital, and some would come by with treats like a man known as the Cocoa Man.

“He was a short, rotund man, he came around every evening before lights out with a trolly and he brought cocoa and juice and tea,” she adds, noting she was in the hospital for months with polio as a child during the early ’50s. “He just became my friend, like he would just stop at the door and talk to me every night.”

Going back even further, others helped clear land and physically build and expand the hospital.

Though the auxiliary has been around since the start, there was no formal volunteer program at the hospital until the late 90s, when the volunteer services program Allan manages came into existence.

Allan notes volunteers now range in age from Grade 5 to 94 years old. Volunteer groups at the hospital include the auxiliary, youth volunteers and general volunteers.

She adds volunteers make a huge impact at the hospital, and points out the time and effort they give to help make St. Joseph’s the place it is.

“It’s very humbling to know how many people give their irreplaceable time,” says Allan. “They could choose to do anything they want, but what they do is give 60,000 volunteer hours a year (to the hospital).

“It’s a remarkable gift to the patients in residence and it also supports the staff at the hospital.”

For more information about volunteering at St. Joseph’s visit www.sjghcomox.ca/volunteering.php.

 

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