By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
It was quickly recognized at the Kern River Valley Healthcare District (KVHD) Hospital Auxiliary Christmas Party on December 13 that the Auxiliary membership is, first and foremost, a close-knit family. A majority of its 76 members filled the Wofford Heights Elks Lodge with the warmth of friendship and laughter.
Also in attendance were members of the KVHD Board of Directors and Executive Staff. Board Member Kay Knight praised the Auxiliary, saying its volunteer work and fundraising skills were second to none in the rural healthcare industry. KVHD CEO Tim McGlew stated, “On behalf of the hospital, we thank you for all you do. Your hard work buys equipment, helps take care of patients, and advances our services to the community.”
After listening to conversations at the holiday event, it was evident that the Auxiliary’s success might be due to the innate desire each member has to help others combined with the enjoyment of working together.
Kathie Ernst, a 20-year member who received an Honorary Life Membership for her volunteer contributions to the organization, stated in her acceptance remarks that she loves doing anything asked of her because the Auxiliary does so much for so many, including helping other members. Ernst endured many personal adversities this past year, and the Auxiliary helped her get through them. “I thank you for your support and friendship all these years,” and she added with a smile, “and for saving me from having nothing to do.”
The all-volunteer Hospital Auxiliary is primarily known for its operation of the KVHD Auxiliary Thrift Store in Lake Isabella, currently managed by long-time volunteer Judy Brown. The familiar nicknames of “Pink Ladies” and “Blue Guys” reflect the colorful uniforms the members wear. The Auxiliary also operates the Gift Shop in the hospital lobby and provides volunteers there to give information to visitors and patients. When needed, they also provide companionship for residents of the Skilled Nursing Facility and comfort for hospital patients and their family members.
The generosity of the community in making donations to the Thrift Store, and the hard-working Auxiliary volunteers who organize and run both it and the Gift Shop, provide a steady source of funding for purchase of new equipment at the hospital. These purchases allow the hospital to offer many of the technologies and capabilities of larger urban hospitals. Auxiliary President Cindi Rupert stated that the funds they generate are used only for requested equipment and are never used for payment of KVHD operating expenses.
The Auxiliary is especially proud of purchasing a telemedicine “Stroke Robot” for the Emergency Room which links to a neurosurgeon in real time for immediate state-of-the-art treatment of patients with stroke symptoms. One of their latest purchases was for a “WOW” Workstation on Wheels that functions as a nurse’s station with computer and monitoring devices which can be moved to patient bedsides.
Whether the equipment is large or small, such as contributing funds for a bus for Skilled Nursing Center residents or a tiny endoscopy camera, a large and committed team of volunteers is working hard behind the scenes generating those funds. Auxiliary members volunteer a combined average of 25,000 hours per year.
The Auxiliary is always recruiting new members to work in their stores or at KVHD facilities in patient services. Men make up less than 10 percent of the membership, and more are needed, especially for unloading donated goods at the Thrift Store. For community members who cannot volunteer their time, they can join the Auxiliary as a Sustaining Member for $25 per year to help support its mission and stay in touch with its activities through a monthly newsletter. Applications for memberships can be obtained at the Thrift Store or in the hospital lobby.
The Hospital Auxiliary will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, with installation of new officers in June. In those five decades, the Auxiliary has demonstrated that it does so much more than fundraising. It provides comfort, friendship, and support to those in need, including each other, just like a family should.