St. Marys hosts regional hospital auxiliaries conference Monday

St. Marys Memorial Hospital Auxiliary President Larry Beattie, second from left, is pictured alongside Perth—Wellington MP John Nater, Perth—Wellington MPP Randy Pettapiece, Hospital Auxiliary Association of Ontario (HAAO) President Marion Saunders, Town of St. Marys Mayor Al Strathdee, HAAO South Central Region Chair Joan Chesney and HPHA President and CEO Andrew Williams. These dignitaries and officials were in St. Marys on Monday along with about 80 auxiliary representatives from as far away as Clinton, Wingham and Goderich for HAAO’s South Central Region Spring Conference.

By Dan Rankin

A celebration of volunteerism and giving back to communities throughout Huron, Perth and Wellington counties took place at the St. Marys United Church Hall on Monday during the spring conference for the South Central region of the Hospital Auxiliary Association of Ontario (HAAO).

Over 80 people representing hospital auxiliaries from St. Marys and Palmerston to Goderich and Wingham came out to the event, sharing information about the fundraising projects they’d held for their local hospitals and the new furnishings and equipment that money had helped bring to the institutions.

“It’s a time to celebrate what these ladies and men do in their hospitals in order to provide equipment and make the extra effort towards patient care, to make that difference, to be that person with the listening ear, or holding hands,” said HAAO President Marion Saunders. “The time that volunteers can give, that nurses just don’t have time for, makes a difference. Especially because the government does not provide for equipment within the hospitals, so the hospital volunteers and the foundations do that fundraising to provide the equipment that is needed.”

Hospitals auxiliaries in Ontario outside of Toronto raised about $21 million last year, said South Central region chair Joan Chesney. Of that, $535, 125 was raised in this region.

In the South Central region, 743 volunteers gave 62,839 volunteer hours in 2015. There were about 19 members of the St. Marys Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in attendance Monday.

According to St. Marys Memorial Hospital Auxiliary President Larry Beattie, our auxiliary raised about $15,000 last year, $11,000 of which came through the gift shop. Other fundraisers included a raffle, bingo nights and bike sales. As announced last week, one item that money has made possible is a Baster “Triple Pump,” that can deliver three IVs, or three different medications, to a patient.

“I once thought that the local auxiliary just ran the gift shop,” said St. Marys Mayor Al Strathdee in his opening remarks Monday. “I’ve since learned they do a lot more than that. The volunteers at the hospital are what I consider the doers. They’re the ones that get things done.”

Perth—Wellington MP John Nater and MPP Randy Pettapiece also congratulated the assembled group of volunteers on the many hours they had put into their local auxiliaries.

“Often the first person you see when you enter any hospital in this country is a member of the auxiliary,” said Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance President and CEO Andrew Williams. “When you come into a hospital, it’s stressful. You’re not really sure what’s going to be going on. And having that smiling face assure you, bring comfort to you, is so important.”

During his speech, Williams asked for a show of hands in order to appreciate just how long some of the people in attendance had been volunteering with their local auxiliaries. The longest serving volunteer of them all was Exeter’s Olga Davis, who has served the South Huron Hospital Auxiliary for 53 years.

Goderich’s Alexandra Marine and General Hospital Auxiliary was recognized for celebrating their 95th anniversary at the event.

“How we do what we do is really driven by people in this room, and auxilians all across the province and the country,” Williams said. “And for that you should be remarkably proud.”

Next year’s HAAO South Central Region Spring Conference will be held in Wingham.

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