Plant Transplant Sale going strong after 39 years

The West River Health Services Auxiliary has been operating to support the healthcare facility since 1949, when it was organized as the Hettinger Hospital Guild. To date, the group (which changed its name in 1963) has raised nearly $200,000 that was either donated to the hospital or given to young students for their education.

Plant Transplant Sale 2 (RGB)
Many different plants are up for grabs at the WRHS Auxiliary’s annual Plant Transplant Sale. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Record)

By COLE BENZ
Record Editor

The West River Health Services Auxiliary has been operating to support the healthcare facility since 1949, when it was organized as the Hettinger Hospital Guild. To date, the group (which changed its name in 1963) has raised nearly $200,000 that was either donated to the hospital or given to young students for their education.

A popular fundraiser each year—especially to those with greener thumbs—is the annual Plant Transplant Sale.

Started nearly 40 years ago in 1977, Carolyn Van White got the idea from spring gardening. During the early weeks of spring, gardeners will thin out their crop of perennial plants, to encourage larger growth.

“Gardeners do this all the time in the spring. Your perennials get crowded, and they benefit from being thinned out.” Jan Sailer said. Sailer was involved in the beginning stages of the annual sale.

Patrons of the annual Plant Transplant Sale looks at some of the different plants sitting on a table at the West River Ambulance Service building. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Record)
Patrons of the annual Plant Transplant Sale looks at some of the different plants sitting on a table at the West River Ambulance Service building.
(Photo by Cole Benz/The Record)

Sailer said White thought about it, and realized the auxiliary could benefit from the waste gardeners accumulate.

“So Carolyn said ‘why don’t’ we just have a place where everyone can bring [their plants],’” Sailer said.

The event has since expanded their plant offerings to include house plants, annuals, vegetables, and fruit plants.

There are no price tags on any of the plants, it is a free will donation system, and some exceed the value of the plants they take home.

“Some people come strictly to support the organizations and the hospital,” Sailer said.

Jennifer Seamands who, with Barb West, took over as the event organizer in 2014, said some people have given as much as $100.

The event raised $842 last year, and it was reported that the sale again raised over $800 this year, though a final dollar amount was not available when the Record went to press.

The money, according to Sailer, is earmarked specifically for scholarships. The group awarded five $200 scholarships until 2007, when they decided to give two students $500. The auxiliary selects the scholars from a pool of students in the region going into the medical field.

The sale was held at the West River Ambulance Service building, a first for the event. Seamands said that they had a great deal of support from hospital and EMS employees.

Next year the group will celebrate its 40th year, and after all these years Sailer still thinks it is a great event for both he hospital and those who call gardening their passion.

“I think the idea behind perennial sharing is just beautiful in that you can give your stuff away, keep some for yourself and your stuff benefits by thinning it out,” Sailer said.







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