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A helping number of hands

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Auxiliary keeps hospital running on volunteer power

By Marty Finley

 

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By MARTY FINLEY mfinley@thenewsenterprise.com HARDIN COUNTY — Jack Woosley knows a good thing when he experiences it. Woosley has volunteered for the Hardin Memorial Hospital Auxiliary since late 2005 in any capacity he can — giving directions to visitors, shuffling patients around the hospital, driving patients home or manning the reception desk on Fridays. “(We) just give service wherever we’re needed,” Woosley said. He got involved after watching his aunt dedicate decades of her life to volunteer service. Since losing his wife to cancer, the volunteers have become a family to him. He now serves as the publicity chairman for the auxiliary. “I knew it was a well-run organization,” Woosley said of his decision to get involved. While the services provided by the Hardin Memorial Hospital Auxiliary could be perceived as small acts of kindness, the sum of their parts have added up to a much bigger whole. From April 2006 to March 2008, the 170 or so active volunteers making up the auxiliary donated almost 80,000 hours of time. The auxiliary also provided more than $92,000 in the same two-year period. Kevin Hilton, director of volunteer services at HMH, said the auxiliary serves as a vital function for the hospital as it covers expenses that either are not anticipated in the hospital’s budget or excluded. These services include transportation, clothing and lodging for patients who need it. The auxiliary also covers miscellaneous expenses like yarn for baby hats, pillows for heart patients, coloring books and crayons for children and pictures to add to the aesthetic quality of certain departments in the hospital. Hilton said they want to make the experience as good as they can for patients while being cared for. The Auxiliary also focuses on bigger projects, such as spending more than $10,000 for the purchase of 13 sleeper chairs for the maternity ward so restless fathers and family members will have a comfortable place to sit and sleep. The auxiliary also entered the technology world, purchasing 10 CD players and one Playstation for the pediatrics ward, and recently approved $2,300 for the purchase of Nintendo Wiis to be placed in the rehab center in the new Ring Road Medical Plaza. Studies show that the Nintendo Wii can be an aid to recuperating patients. But the biggest project may be the scholarship program the Auxiliary offer to students who are pursuing a degree in the medical field. Hilton said the scholarships are $1,000 for each person and given twice a year for each semester. The number of recipients varies by semester, but can be given to any applicant with a 3.0 grade-point average that is taking at least nine credit hours at an accredited university. Hilton said the applications are not limited to the county, but students are required to have a letter from an instructor as well as provide an essay of their own. The scholarship/tuition reimbursement made up more than $12,600 of the auxiliary’s total donations from April 2007 to March 2008 and is funded entirely by the members’ own fundraising efforts. Three fundraisers are held each year, two being jewelry sales. The third is a Christmas fundraiser titled “Let Christmas Shine,” where people can buy a light on a Christmas tree as a tribute to a loved one or friend. The remainder of the auxiliary’s donations are provided through the gift shop, which the auxiliary owns, Hilton said. But the auxiliary doesn’t just focus on patient needs. Members also provide for the hospital and its staff. One way is by purchasing physician reference books, which cost nearly $200 each, Hilton said. The auxiliary also pays the hospital’s Naier membership fee, which allows the hospital to order items that have been donated to Naier, a nonprofit organization, by companies that are overstocked. The one stipulation Naier has is that the items must be given away by the hospitals.        While the auxiliary has 170 active members, Hilton said it also has members who have paid dues and remain members, but cannot participate in volunteer activities for various reasons such as health problems. Listing the individual efforts of each volunteer could be as exhaustive as the reference books the auxiliary provides, but Hilton said the time may be the most important service provided. Volunteers can be found interacting with patients and assisting staff in almost every department of the hospital, Hilton said, from radiology to emergency to information.  “If it were not for the volunteers, someone else would have to be doing this,” Hilton added. Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762.