Last year, the Bulkley Valley District Hospital Auxiliary donated 14,600 hours of their time and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hospital.
The auxiliary has been a critical part of providing health care services in Smithers and the Bulkley Valley for more than 90 years.
Now, 72 ladies operate the New To You thrift store at the corner of King Street and Broadway Avenue and the gift shop, gift cart and vending machines at the hospital.
Winette McEwen, current chair of the auxiliary, said the auxiliary has raised more than $350,000 in the last three years, for the purchase of new hospital and healthcare equipment.
McEwen said most of the money raised comes from operating New To You.
“Every penny brought in goes a long way,” she said.
“I always say to people when you don’t need your old clothes or that old chair anymore, bring it to New To You, because we might sell it for $3 or $20 but every dollar helps and it stays in this community.”
The auxiliary bought the New To You building years ago after first paying rent on it for years prior.
Donations at the store increase during yard-sale months and space has become an issue for the storage of donations not on display, or that did not sell and are waiting to be shipped to the Salvation Army in Vancouver.
“We’re building a new shed soon,” McEwen said.
“That should help a lot.”
Shelley Becker, assistant to the the hospital administrator, was amazed at what she saw and heard at a recent appreciation dinner held for the volunteers.
“When I heard about all they do, I thought, what an incredible group of women,” Becker said.
The hospital administrator meets with the auxiliary two or three times per year, bringing a “wish list” of equipment purchases.
Everything from bedside mats and defibrillators to vital sign monitors is up
for discussion and the entire auxiliary membership votes on what equipment they will be purchased.
Their goal is not to purchase just one big item per year but to distribute the money in a way that helps as many people as possible.
“We want our funds to purchase items that directly benefit the patients and hopefully keep patients within the community, so they don’t have to be sent elsewhere for tests or surgeries,” said Kay Lindberg, vice-president of the auxiliary.
Spreading the money throughout various departments also helps expand and diversify services and also makes it easier to attract specialists to the region.
Lindberg started working as a registered nurse at the hospital in 1972. She joined the auxiliary after she retired and said it was an easy decision to make.
Lindberg also co-ordinates 19 junior volunteers, of at least 14 years of age, at the hospital and an additional six at the Bulkley Valley Lodge.
“The junior volunteers stock rooms, make beds, do paperwork for the ward clerks, socialize with the patients and also help decorate the hospital and lodge for seasonal occasions.”
Motivating the small army of volunteers isn’t as difficult as one might think.
Edith Beerda, recording secretary for the auxiliary, thinks everyone enjoys the benefits that come with volunteering.
“There are a lot of perks,” Beerda said. “Especially if they work at New To You.
“They get to meet people, give back to the community, socialize and purchase clothing at half-price.”