Health Care Auxiliary celebrates 100 years of service

Organization founded in 1913 has raised more than $1 million to benefit the healthcare of area residents

One of a series of posters created by Marilyn Bueckert and Kathryn Garcia for the Health Care Auxiliary’s centenary.

As of the date of today’s paper, the Ashcroft & District Health Care Auxiliary begins its second century of operation. It was founded on Aug. 14 1913, only days after the new Lady Minto Hospital had opened in Ashcroft.

The Aug. 22 1913 issue of the Ashcroft Journal contained an article about the new group, headlined “Ladies Auxiliary Formed: First Annual Meeting Held In Schoolhouse”. The report said, in part:

“A meeting of the greater part of those ladies interested met in the schoolhouse on the afternoon of the 14th inst., and formed a Ladies’ Auxiliary in connection with the Ashcroft and District General Hospital. The meeting was called to order at about 3:30 p.m. . . . Many matters of interest to the hospital were discussed, and it was decided that meetings would be held monthly on the second Thursday of each month. . . . We trust that the good work thus so pleasantly and unanimously begun will continue throughout the existence of the Lady Minto Hospital. Seventeen members have joined the Aid, and $1.00 is the membership fee.”

One of the ADHCA’s first fundraising events was a dance in 1913, which brought in $150 (approximately $3500 today) to support the hospital. It was the start of a century of raising funds, all of which go to benefit not only the hospital in Ashcroft, but healthcare of all types throughout the area.

Over the years the ADHCA has presided over horse race meets, teas, raffles of donated goods (including a Ford motorcar in the 1920s, donated by a local Ford dealership), dances, the sale of homemade goods (including knitted and sewn items), movie nights, bake sales, and educational presentations. In June 1963 the Auxiliary opened its Thrift Store on Railway, on the site where Safety Mart currently stands. Founded by Dollie Norrie, and now located at the Village Office on Bancroft St., the shop is now the ADHCA’s main source of revenue.

Over the last century, the money raised by the Auxiliary has funded numerous projects and purchases. In its early days the focus was on giving aid to the upkeep of what began as the Lady Minto Hospital in Ashcroft. Items purchased for the hospital include beds, bedding, and pyjamas; storm windows; vinyl flooring; bedding and furnishings for the nurses’ quarters; awnings; an incubator; wheelchairs; an auxiliary battery-powered plant for the operating room; air conditioning units; operating room instruments; an X-ray machine and table, as well as lead lining for the X-ray room; emergency lamps; bassinets; a foetal monitor; a cardiac defibrillator; a whirlpool bath; a heart monitor; and electric beds.

Changes to the Ashcroft hospital in recent years have led the ADHCA to expand its support to other hospitals used by area residents. Donations have been made to Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops, to assist in purchases for the Intensive Care facility and to help provide a new CT scanner. The Auxiliary has also donated funds to the Cancer Clinic in Vancouver.

Members of the ADHCA have always given their support to organizations which promote the health and well-being of all. Within a year of the group’s formation came the start of World War One, and many Auxiliary members worked for the Red Cross; something which happened again during World War II. In 1948 the Auxiliary held a very successful X-ray clinic, which was attended by more than 300 people. Since then the group has staged blood donor clinics, sponsored a group of students known as “Candy Stripers” who helped staff with chores and visited patients, and arranged the twice-yearly mammogram clinics for the area. ADHCA members have also ensured that even during the dark times of the Depression and Second World War, when food was scarce, the hospital was well supplied with food and preserves from members’ pantries, kitchens, gardens, and even wine cellars.

In the 1960s the Auxiliary established the showcase at the hospital, featuring many homemade items which could be purchased to support the group’s work, and this tradition continues today. Many a new baby born locally has received, as one of his or her first gifts, a lovingly hand-knitted item from the showcase. The ADHCA also brightens the lives of older patients; over the years members have shopped for hospital-bound people, cheered the lives of patients by bringing them flowers, and taken round a trolley stocked with chocolates and treats.

It is difficult to know how much the Auxiliary has raised over the past hundred years; inflation, and the changing purchasing power of the dollar, make such calculations difficult. In 1965, for example, the Journal reported that the ADHCA had raised $10,000 that year for purchases; a sum that would be equivalent to approximately $75,000 today. This year the Auxiliary will be donating more than $100,000 that will benefit the healthcare of all residents in our region. It is therefore probably safe to say that, in today’s terms, the ADHCA has raised more than $1 million for healthcare in our area; all of it accomplished by volunteers.

The “good work . . . so pleasantly and unanimously begun” in 1913 has indeed continued throughout the existence of the Lady Minto Hospital, and well beyond it. The work of the Ashcroft & District Health Care Auxiliary has touched the lives of many, many people over the last century. Congratulations to the group, as it begins its second century of existence; long may it continue!

Many thanks to Marilyn Bueckert for her assistance with this article. The superb posters Marilyn has made with the help of her daughter Kathryn Garcia, and which document each decade of the Auxiliary’s existence, can be seen at the Ashcroft Family Medical Centre, the Ashcroft Healthcare Centre, and the Auxiliary’s Thrift Store at the Village Office.

Barbara Roden

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