BY CHRISTINE PENNER POLLE
The Red Lake Margaret Cochenour Memorial Hospital Auxiliary is celebrating a significant milestone this May, having been established as an auxiliary for 40 years.
A committed group of volunteers from both Ear Falls and Red Lake have been faithfully raising money to improve regional healthcare facilities year in and year out since 1974. Some of the volunteers, like current President Kathy Robinson, have been around since the group’s inception.
“We’re kind of a well-oiled machine now after all these years,” Robinson said about the Auxiliary. “It’s amazing what volunteers do.”
Divided into South (Ear Falls) and North (Red Lake) units, the two guilds conduct separate fundraising activities but gather semi-annually to listen to the hospital’s “wish list” and then decide what the money they raise will fund. The South unit’s two main fundraisers every year are the recently completed Theatre 105 show and a canteen at the Trout Forest Music Festival that serves up delicious perogies and homemade pie. The North unit ran the gift shop at the hospital for many years with the help of volunteer manager Elva Burkholder but for the past several years has instead brought in money onsite through two vending machines. The Red Lake group also fundraises through Nevada tickets sold at Roadside Convenience and through “round up” days at Sobey’s. Since their inception in 1974, the Auxiliary has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. This year alone their fundraising goal is $18,000.
“It’s always over $10,000 to give to the hospital,” Robinson says of the guild’s annual fundraising.
Anywhere you go in the hospital, Northwood Lodge, or the Ear Falls Health Centre, the hand of this industrious group can be seen. Hospital projects that the Auxiliary has fundraised for, in part or whole, include a birthing bed, an ultrasound machine, an electrocardiograph machine, air conditioning units, ice machine, and new beds and furniture for patient rooms. Northwood Lodge has also received dining room furniture, medical equipment and a blanket warmer out of the Auxiliary’s generosity. The group raised funds for a defibrillator for the Ear Falls Health Centre, and donated $30,000 when the hospital roof needed repairing.
The hospital auxiliary’s reach extends beyond our corner of northwestern Ontario. The guild is an active member of the Hospital Auxiliaries Association of Ontario (HAOO) and currently South unit member Ursula Dekeyser is Chair for the Northwest Region of the HAOO.
Hospital President and CEO Paul Chatelain understands the impressive contribution the Auxiliary volunteers have made to the area over the years.
“We’re very fortunate that they’ve been around for 40 years,” Chatelain explained, “It’s really positive. It’s nice to have a great working group that gives back to their hospital. I would add, not just from me the CEO, but on behalf of the board, the staff, and the physicians and certainly our patients a big thank you and congratulations on 40 wonderful years.”