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For 100 years, the Palmetto Health Richland Volunteer Auxiliary has been diligently serving the needs of the hospital, its patients and employees. Almost every where you look, you'll see a volunteer working and making a difference. "Not every group reaches a milestone like this and has the impact on an organization like we've had," says Doug Williams, Volunteer Auxiliary president. "It's been a very special time for us."
Their beginnings were in Columbia Hospital when, on May 4, 1909, the Columbia Hospital Auxilary was chartered. The name changed to Richland Memorial Hospital Auxiliary in 1974 and, with the merger of Baptist and Richland to the current name.
The earliest volunteers at Columbia Hospital were known as the Ladies Hospital Association. Volunteers were an important part of the hospital from its very beginnings in 1892. Not only did they raise funds for hospital operations and perform many administrative duties, they helped whereever they could. Those were also the days when nurses not only cared for patients, but also cooked the meals their patients ate.
Columbia Hospital volunteers also raised funds to landscape hospital grounds, recognizing it as needed improvement by writing, "Trees, shrubbery and flowers of the right kind, when once planted, will in a few years change materially the aspect of the grounds and add in no small degree to the attractiveness of the hospital." Indeed, many of the beautiful trees provided by the Auxilary can still be seen at the former site of Columbia Hospital, now the home of Richland County offices.
Early volunteers also were vital in raising community donations — and not just financial. Items brought to the hospital included crates and baskets of fruit and vegetables, ice cream, doilies and pillow cases, books, flowers and plants, silver teaspoons, oysters and fish, furniture, homemade jelly, syrup and, last but not least, cases and gallons of whiskey arrived on a regular basis!
Early volunteers also managed a lunch counter at the State Fair to raise money and conducted community entertainment as fund raisers.
Cash was scarce in the early days but volunteers each made pledges to raise a certain amount of money for the hospital. To raise her share, Mrs. John Haskell borrowed a mule and wagon with a driver from her brother, had wood cut from his land, and brought it into Columbia to sell with the proceeds going to the hospital.
In 1909, the year the Columbia Hospital Auxiliary was chartered, the Ladies Hospital Association was feeling overwhelmed by the growing financial needs of the hospital and turned its operation over to the Columbia Medical Association. Amazingly, they proudly turned it over totally free of debt. And, with the Auxilary officially formed, they continued to faithfully serve the hospital.
Richland volunteers celebrated their 100th anniversary with a reception at Leaside on May 4th, but being 100 years old hasn't slowed them down. Today, they continue to carry on their rich legacy by raising significant sums of money to support the hospital through the gifts shops and periodic sales of jewelry and other items. Funds are used to purchase medical equipment, renovate family waiting rooms and children's playrooms, the cancer center garden project and as well as pledges to help build the Heart Hospital and new Children's Hospital.
"We plan to continue with our Make a Wish and scholarship programs, while being responsive to the needs and priorities of Richland's leadership," Doug adds. "We've made some changes in the processes we use and have even met with people in the Finance and Supply Chain Management departments to better understand how we can take advantage of their expertise when buying requested items for hospital departments. We also have modified how we award scholarships so they are granted to employees who are committed to Richland. This dovetails nicely with leadership goals of promoting employees from within Palmetto Health."
Since 1965, volunteers have generously donated more than one million hours of extraordinary service and their financial gifts have totaled more than $3 million since 1973. What a difference they have made, beginning 100 years ago!
— Monya F. Havekost