History of SMCH Auxiliary

On May 12, 1959, a group of dedicated volunteers organized to form Stewart Memorial Community Hospital Auxiliary. Mrs. S.M. O’Connor was the first president of the group of 49 members. Dues were set at $1 and remained that amount well into the 1990’s.

The organization of the Auxiliary came almost three years before the opening of SMCH and was a part of the community fund raising effort that made the hospital possible. The first Auxiliary bazaar in 1959 raised $350.

By the end of the first year, membership had grown to about 150 and by the time the hospital opened in the spring of 1962, it had climbed to 271.

But this was only the beginning. Membership reached a high point in the 1980’s of more than 2,000 members from Lake City and surrounding communities. The 2008-2009 membership of 742 makes us the second largest Auxiliary in the state of Iowa.

The Auxiliary has received numerous statewide honors. Six times it received the “Master Auxiliary” award. It has regularly been among the top two or three leaders statewide in membership. In 1984 it received a “Community Service” award from then Congressman Tom Harkin. Members have served on the state board six times.

Funds are raised in several ways – the annual membership drive, snack bar sales, and several annual fund raising events. Events over the past fifty years have included “Bazaar”, “Christmas Tree Lane” and “Christmas Affair”, “Mardi Gras”, “Fall Frolic”, “Family Bingo”, “Puttin’ On The Ritz”, “Table A Fare”, “Silent Auction”, “Desserts with Style”, as well as our on-going “Book Fairs and Bake Sales” and “Uniform Sales”.

While that first bazaar in 1959 raised $350, several of the more current fund raising events net several thousand dollars each year. The first “Quilt Auction” is being planned for June 27th of this year. All of these efforts have enabled the Auxiliary to contribute more than $602,000 to SMCH since its beginning. These funds have been used to purchase specific pieces of equipment to enable physicians and nurses to provide better health care for patients. 2009 proceeds have been designated to update patient rooms.

Just as important as the funds raised, are the volunteer services provided. The snack bar, which was the first in the state of Iowa to be planned as an integral part of the hospital building, is operated entirely by volunteers and is open every week day.

In the past, Auxiliary members have delivered mail to patients. In 1973 a Meals-on-Wheels program was started and Auxiliary volunteers continue to operate that program. Currently this program delivers as many as 48 meals at noon to the communities of Lake City and Lohrville. The meals are prepared in the hospital dietary department and delivered by the Auxiliary volunteers.

Many members also devoted their sewing and knitting talents to hospital projects. They make a variety of products, which made life just a little easier and more pleasant for SMCH patients. In the past, “friendly mice and puppets” were provided for young patients. Still today, caps are knitted for newborns and in 2008 members began the “tea towel project” with their embroidered towels, a popular item in the Heartstrings Gift Shoppe.

The Red Cross Bloodmobile has been served by Auxiliary members since 1960, even before the hospital opened. More recently Siouxland Blood Bank has been served by Auxiliary members.

Community Health Education has become an important part of Auxiliary activities. This has included sponsoring such programs as “I Can Cope” classes; “Vials of Life;” Buckle Up Baby;” CPR classes; “Quit Smoking” clinics; Blood Pressure, Diabetes, Cholesterol, and Colo-rectal Screenings, “Link-to-Life;” “Phone First;” “Get the Answers – Medication Awareness;” and the support and promotion of emergency medical services.

Auxiliary members have been a part of every major expansion of the hospital, contributing time and money to fund drives and volunteering that “little extra” caring service that makes SMCH outstanding. In January 1991 the Auxiliary provided a spark that ignited a very successful fund drive for “Project 2000”. Members voted to donate $100,000 to the project over a five-year period. With this major contribution, other groups and individuals answered the challenge and more than $1 million was pledged toward the hospital expansion.

The strong tradition that was started with 49 members fifty years ago continues today. The Auxiliary is alive and well at SMCH! We plan to continue to strongly support the great hospital and clinics we are so blessed to have in our communities.