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The Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, as vital today as they were 60 years ago

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Recently an article from the Chester Herald Tribune dated, Thursday, July 15, 1976 was discovered among some archives. This article shares with us in detail how the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary was formed and the important role a group of woman had in establishing Memorial Hospital as we know it today.

The Chester Herald Tribune Article from 1976 reads…

Tribute Written to Hospital Auxiliary

The last edition of the “News in Brief”, a newsletter edited at Memorial Hospital in Chester for benefit of its Board of Directors, Medical Staff, Personnel, and other interested persons, contains a tribute to Memorial Hospital Auxiliary:

“The Memorial Hospital Auxiliary fulfills a vital function as the primary support group for the hospital. The idea of a new hospital was first conceived at a Chester Woman’s Club meeting which then sponsored a tea at the Elks Lodge on June 20, 1957. That was the beginning.

“The community in 1957 was served by the Chester Hospital on George Street, directly by Drs. I.D. Newmark and Milton Zemlyn. The doctors both backed the newfound idea that caused the Auxiliary to form by backing the concept of needing at least 40 new beds to replace their aging institution. A group was already working on a volunteer basis at the existing hospital so that when the two joined into one group, it became known simply as the Hospital Auxiliary.

“The first meeting of the newly-formed Hospital Auxiliary was actually an Executive Committee meeting July 11, 1957, held at the home of Mrs. Callie Smith, the first Auxiliary President. The first general membership meeting of the group was July 18 at the Chester Public Library where the Constitution and Bylaws were drawn up and adopted. Subsequent meetings were held at the library on the first Thursday of each month. There were 47 active and 25 inactive members.

“By September, 1957, the membership had grown to 81 active members and 34 inactive. The first fund raising events were turkey raffle, charity dance, box supper, card party and bake sale. From the beginning, there was a cooperative spirit toward transitioning from the small and aging Chester Hospital to a new yet-to-be-built community district hospital.

“The building fund began Sept. 9 of that year. By December of the same year, the treasury showed a balance of $930.26 plus $121.00 in a memorial fund. (The first dollars came through various methods by which money was raised with members doing everything from washing, ironing, and babysitting to bake sales, raffles, and so on.) Every conceivable method of fund raising was explored by the group. All memorials, donations, and project proceeds were turned over to the building fund by February 1958.

“The land on which the hospital is built was donated by a member, Mrs. Austin Cole Sr., to be managed by the newly formed ‘Steering Committee’, the purpose of which was to establish a hospital district, obtain federal and state grants and submit a hospital financing proposal for vote to the citizenry, and was to come from the Cole estate. She left it to the Steering Committee to determine how much land was needed. The date of conveyance was April 30, 1960.

“Before the hospital was built, the foresight of the Hospital Auxiliary established a nurse’s scholarship program on Sept. 4, 1958, with the first scholarship awarded a year later to Etta Jane Nagel. A former high school band director, Wayne Thorne, presented the Auxiliary with a check for $100, representing donations made at a benefit band concert, which he arranged. The idea had caught on well.

“The Auxiliary saw the ripening fruit of its labor on Jan. 20, 1960, when the bond issue brought about by the combined efforts of the Steering Committee and Auxiliary, was passed, giving birth to the Randolph Hospital District. Construction was under way but a shortage of funds threatened some of the beauty (and functional portions) of the building. Once again, the Hospital Auxiliary rose to the task and raised additional funds so that terrazzo floors, better brick, and other quality materials could be maintained instead of substituted. The Auxiliary even financed the purchase of the Perma-Glass windows for the hospital.

“The Hospital Auxiliary became known as the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in September, 1962, to correspond with the new hospital’s name. From 1962 to this writing - - 14 years (1976)- - approximately $65,500 has been given by the Auxiliary in addition to $16,500 in nursing scholarships. At the present time (1976) there are 150 active members and 100 inactive members.

“By now and for several years past the main fund raising event was the annual horse show. (The Auxiliary had come a long way from turkey raffles.) In addition to the fund raising it nevertheless maintained its function in the Gift Shop, Bloodmoblie, Candy Striper Program, visitor control program and other volunteer programs required by a growing hospital.

“It was again extraordinarily active when the hospital building was expanded in 1968, increasing the bed capacity to 86. The Easter Smorgasbord replaced the Horse Show as the primary fund raising project in March 1974, and about that time, the Auxiliary expanded its support in the area of nursing scholarships to provide the needed technical manpower of the hospital. As of May 1, 1975, there were five scholarships to area students in nurses training. As of this writing, the Auxiliary is still actively interested in both the present and future welfare of the hospital.

“This article is a small attempt to provide a tribute to an organization without whose support the hospital as we know it may not have come into being. It must be a great source of satisfaction and price to these dedicated people that the hospital has become mostly self-sustaining. Rather than their job being done, however, the need for dedicated volunteers and the thousands of hours and dollars they represent are more necessary today than ever. Every Auxilian should take pride in belonging to this organization, which has so rich a history. And more should join. To go from an idea to an entire multi-million dollar health care institution, which is not only one of Chester’s largest employers, but also serves the medical needs of the people is no mean task. And to have been the group whose idea and untiring effort obtained the necessary start in addition to the tens of thousands of dollars in earned and donated monies to produce one of the finest hospitals in Southern Illinois, is a tribute in itself.

“At the present time (1976) the Hospital Auxiliary is headed by Mrs. Edward Powley. Members of the Executive Board are Mrs. Robert Jeffreys, Mrs. Wilbert Welge, Miss Catherine Goff, Mrs. James Blechle, Mrs. Ralph Darling, Mrs. Dwight Hardin, Mrs. J.R. Gordon, Mrs. Charles Bullock, Mrs. Paul Mueller, Mrs. O.M. Meyer, Mrs. Roger Ohlau, Mrs. Howard Alms, Mrs. O.H. Koeneman, Miss Olga Decker.”

Since this article was published in 1976 the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has remained diligent in their efforts to support the improvements and funding of advanced equipment necessary to keep Memorial Hospital moving forward and ever growing in an ever changing medical field. As of July 2020 the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has 230 members. Leading fundraisers now include Memorial Hospital’s Gift Shop, Tree of Remembrance campaign, bake sales and raffles. The Auxiliary continues to hand out scholarships annually with $500 awarded to 1 high school senior in Memorial Hospital’s Medical Pathfinder Program, $500 for LPN and $1,200 for RN applicants. Since the Tree of Remembrance campaign began in 1983 the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has donated over $350,940 in equipment to the hospital. In the more recent years these items have included new High-Lo Exam Tables for the Rural Health Clinics (2017), a GE Ultrasound Upgrade for the Stress Echocardiogram in the radiology department (2018), Chemo/Infusion patient chairs (2014), ER Trauma Lights (2015), Code Ready Defibrillator for the emergency department (2013), Surgical Tables (2012), Surgical Retractor (2011), smart TVs (2019) for the new Med/Surg unit to be completed in the summer of 2020, and much more. The officers for the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in 2020 are: President - Mardell Granger, 1st Vice President - Lisa Feldmann, 2nd Vice President - Carrie Jo Dierks, Secretary - Pat Koenegstein, and Treasurer - Kathy Albrecht.

Apryl Bradshaw, Administrative Assistant at Memorial Hospital is liaison for the Auxiliary. She emphasizes the importance of Auxiliary by stating,

“Memorial Hospital’s Auxiliary members and their efforts to raise funds throughout the year through gift shop sales, bakes sales, and The Tree of Remembrance, aid Memorial Hospital in ensuring patient care, convenience and the latest technology to provide the best quality care possible. As a chairman on the Auxiliary Board and the Volunteer Director at Memorial Hospital I can honestly say we truly have an amazing group of Auxiliary Members.”

If you are interested in learning more about the Memorial Hospital Auxiliary, making a donation, or becoming a member you can contact Apryl at 618-826-4581 ext. 1299. Dedicated volunteers are always welcome.

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