Ladies auxiliary, not just a sewing circle

Sixty-five years ago, the Hettinger Hospital Guild was established.Posted Feb. 28, 2014

By JAMIE SPAINHOWER

ACR Editor

 

Courtesy photo Current members of the WRHS Auxiliary are (from left) Jan Sailer, Karan Ehlers, Mary Kilwein, Staci Miller, and Kaye McIntyre. Members standing are Eva Knutson, Helen Lewis, Jackie Muggerud, Karen Ormiston, Mary Whitmer, Mary Krien, Kaylene Erlenbusch, Dana Andress, Stacy Chadwick, Kathy Kennedy, Eve Safratowich, Jenifer Long and Barb Stadheim.
Courtesy photo
Current members of the WRHS Auxiliary are (from left) Jan Sailer, Karan Ehlers, Mary Kilwein, Staci Miller, and Kaye McIntyre. Members standing are Eva Knutson, Helen Lewis, Jackie Muggerud, Karen Ormiston, Mary Whitmer, Mary Krien, Kaylene Erlenbusch, Dana Andress, Stacy Chadwick, Kathy Kennedy, Eve Safratowich, Jenifer Long and Barb Stadheim.

Sixty-five years ago, the Hettinger Hospital Guild was established. Over the decades, its name and members have changed, but its mission remains the same.

At the time of its founding president – Mrs. Ray Clark, who held office from Oct. 5, 1949 until January 1961 – the first project the guild completed for the hospital was to make curtains for all the patient rooms when the Community Memorial Hospital in Hettinger first opened its doors.

What the group of women has accomplished over the years, however, involved more than sewing.

Over 64 years, the group contributed over $190,000 to various hospital departments, in addition to the outlying clinics served by West River Health Services.

Tireless in their fundraising efforts, the group made annual donations that included scholarships each year for students going into the medical field and equipment ranging from a wheelchair at the Bowman Clinic to an X-ray machine and screen, electrocardiograph and resuscitator. They also paid for the digging of supplemental water well. Money was also raised by the group in the 1960s for lab equipment (donated in memory of President Selma Galbreath) and a $1,000 isolet for premature babies.

“The goal is to have anyone who wants and is willing to support the medical community,” past president Kaye McIntyre said. “The only requirement is the willingness to be a volunteer.”

And that includes men, as well.

“The financial contribution from the Auxiliary is definitely important,” said Jim Long, WRHS Administrator and CEO. “But we need to recognize the non-financial support these ladies have given for its significance as well.”

From the beginning of the hospital the ladies have been there, educating others about the needs of the health system, generating community support and encouraging the region that it could support a quality rural medical system, he said.

And that goal has been met with outreach clinics in Bowman, Mott, New England and Lemmon, which offers quality medical care to those who otherwise would have to travel many miles to seek care.

“When we joined the state organization in 1963, we changed the name to the Auxiliary,” past-president Eve Knutson said.

During the 1960s, other organizations in the area were asked to join in the fundraising efforts. Nine organizations helped with bazaars, carnivals, rummage sales and other assorted get-togethers.

“These were very good years,” McIntyre said. “There were 96 new members recorded and a sewing committee was kept very busy making dozens of potholders, slippers, towels and other supplies.”

The group experienced a busy time in the 1970s as the hospital was remodeled.

The largest one-time event and highest revenue for a single project was when the “Hee Haw Show” was performed in conjunction with the Toastmaster Club and Hee Haw Gang emcees. More than 220 people participated in the event.

In 1977, the group undertook the task of putting a television in all the patient rooms and held many raffles. The annual Plant Transplant also started that year and presently continues every spring.

“People bring plants from their own gardens and there is a free-will offering and exchange,” McIntyre said.

The flowers have always sold out, with someone stopping by last thing and scooping up whatever is left, Knutson added.

A turkey luncheon still remains the guild’s largest fundraiser. Others include the annual membership drive, raffle, plant sale, Bridge-o-Rama and the RADA knife and kitchen implement sale. RADA knives still sold by the auxiliary were first ordered in 1966 and the knives continue to be a good source of revenue. They can be ordered off the WRHS website.

Currently, the auxiliary is looking for new members, new ideas and more volunteers.

Knustson served as president from 1981 to 2008 and, in 2003, she received the Good Neighbor Award from the North Dakota Rural Health Association for her years leading the group.

“We’re not just a bunch of women sitting around with nothing else to do,” she said. “And we have the need for new growth and involvement from both the young and old in the communities.”

If the group continues at its current pace it will have donated $250,000 to the various hospital funds, not including untold thousands of hours put in by volunteers and members of the community.

The guild’s annual meeting will be held in March, with the nomination and installation of officers for the upcoming year. Compared to $1 per member at its inception, a membership now costs $10 per year, and volunteers and members can be as involved as they like – a little or a lot.

The group meets on the fourth Thursday of the month from noon to 1 p.m. so those who work have the opportunity to attend meetings during their lunch hour.