PELLA — Over 60 years ago, a group of women came together to form an organization to support a small-town hospital in Iowa.
The Pella Community Hospital opened in 1960, beginning as an acute care hospital with only seven doctors and 17 employees.
Around the same time, eight women — named Martha Lautenbach, Elva Monster, Lucille Stravers, Coralyn Vermeer, Ardella Gosselink, Vera Andres, Harriet Prins, and Bernice Bosch — formed a committee on October 30, 1960 to help out the staff. They eventually held their first meeting in 1961 as the Pella Community Hospital Auxiliary.
Decades later, the auxiliary continues to help hospital patients during a crucial time.
An auxiliary is defined as an organization with the purpose of giving help, aid or support to another more prominent organization with which it is affiliated.
In regards to the Pella Regional Health Center Auxiliary, volunteers provide service to the patients in the local hospital through a variety of tasks and activities. The organization is open to everybody, regardless of age or gender.
Maryann Hutchinson and Marilee Sjaardema, who are both native to Pella, have donated a considerable amount of their time towards the Pella Regional Health Center Auxiliary.
Both women were retired school teachers when they decided to volunteer for the auxiliary, wanting to still be involved in the community.
“I've lived in Pella my whole life, but I've certainly gotten acquainted with more people, became friends with more people who've been working there,” Sjaardema said. “I think that it's a wonderful way to volunteer.”
In the beginning, volunteers would wear coral or blue smocks while assisting the patients. Their responsibilities included pushing a refreshment cart, watering flowers and plants, delivering books and magazines to patients, making puppets for children, and sewing hospital gowns.
Throughout the years, the amount of tasks expanded for volunteers. According to Hutchinson, the auxiliary has placed a large emphasis on hours of volunteer service and fund raising activities.
The Pella Community Hospital Auxiliary also has a board of 12 members, including a president, vice president, secretary, and coordinators.
Each coordinator is delegated with a specific goal, which include donations, sewing, knitting, and guest relations.
Hutchinson said one of the most important tasks for volunteers is greeting anyone who enters the hospital, which she said many people don’t realize how it can affect the patients.
“Many folks at the hospital are not here under the best of circumstances. They are here for a procedure, an operation, a doctor visit, looking to control pain and many sicknesses,” Hutchinson said. “A warm smile from a volunteer and showing compassion to each person may help alleviate a patient's fear or worry, so a smile is a very important thing for a volunteer to do.”
Hutchinson added there’s a strong sense of comradery with all of the volunteers in the auxiliary.
“Whenever anything comes up that needs to be done, we always show up together, and we're going to work together and it will be successful,” Hutchinson said.
Outside of their work inside of the hospital, the auxiliary also formed the Mary Evers Memorial Nursing Scholarships, with a committee who selects recipients each year. The scholarship was created for students from Pella who are planning to enter the medical field.
The past year, the auxiliary has donated around 16 scholarships towards students, providing $1,000 per person. Over the past 55 years since the scholarship was conceived, this was the largest amount of money the auxiliary have donated.
“This is probably the thing that I'm most proud of,” Sjaardema said. “We've really done well with it and we are helping people.”
Regardless of the task, Hutchinson said the work volunteers put in for the hospital is highly valuable.
“The tasks that volunteers do are often things that could be done by a paid employee, but when volunteers step in to offer their time, they are giving service and saving the hospital a significant amount of money,” Hutchinson said. “I've spent hours folding papers and stuffing envelopes, sorting letters, working with non-confidential information to help get a job done.”
Regardless of the task, she said volunteers are the most valuable asset to the auxiliary.
“Volunteers don't get paid, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless,” Hutchinson said.