Margarita McKenzie answers phones Thursday at The Memorial Hospital. McKenzie, who has been a volunteer Pink Lady for about three years, is among more than 20 ladies who volunteer at the hospital, working the front desk, in the gift shop and other places.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Margarita McKenzie answers phones Thursday at The Memorial Hospital. McKenzie, who has been a volunteer Pink Lady for about three years, is among more than 20 ladies who volunteer at the hospital, working the front desk, in the gift shop and other places.

'Face of stability'

Auxiliary members donate time, energy to TMH

Advertisement

— It's 6:30 Thursday morning.

The office near the front desk at The Memorial Hospital is closed, and the room is dark. The well-lit entry area with its plush couch is empty.

Empty, except for Jerrie Simpson.

She meets patients as they come through the doors with a smile and an offer to help them find their destination in the hospital's corridors. Staff members greet her by name as they bustle by.

When asked why she's chosen to be a member of The Memorial Hospital Ladies Auxiliary off and on for 30 years, Simpson's answer is simple.

"Because I live here," she said. "I live in Craig, and I want to be involved.

"My family's all raised, I wasn't employed, so I thought it was a good thing to do."

A collection of small buttons sparkled on the pink coat as she spoke. The decorations represent the 5,000 hours Simpson has devoted to the volunteer group so far.

The rosy-colored coats worn by volunteer auxiliary members give them another name: the Pink Ladies.

Pink Ladies man the reception desk, run the hospital's gift shop, and take up other jobs around the building, including collecting lunch tickets during mealtime, said Samantha Johnston, TMH service excellence officer.

"They're a face of stability at the hospital," she said.

Ladies Auxiliary members use the gift shop's profits to buy various supplies and equipment for the hospital, she said.

Recently, the Pink Ladies purchased iPods for use by recovering day-surgery patients.

Johnston said Pink Ladies' familiarity with the local population also adds to the role they play at the hospital.

"They're people who often times know everybody in the community, so they know our patients, they know our staff," Johnston said. "They're invaluable in that sense."

The group currently includes 23 members, some of whom have volunteered 20,000 hours at the hospital.

"I think when you look at the sheer numbers - the people that we have and the hours that they volunteer - it becomes pretty obvious that they're a significant face of the hospital," Johnston said.

Pink Ladies range in age from 40 to 70 years and older, said Anna Rippy, the group's president.

This year, Rippy took over the president position from Simpson. The two have been friends for almost 50 years, Rippy said, adding that Simpson initially got her started as a Pink Lady.

"She talks me into these things," Rippy said, laughing.

Several elements about the group have kept her among their ranks.

"Just being able to help people, and the camaraderie we have with the women there," she said are what have kept her volunteering.

Eventually, Rippy said, she'd like to see younger people, including men, volunteer at the hospital.

Putting in time as a Pink Lady has kept Nina Lawton, a retired teacher, active.

"After teaching school for so long, I need routine to get me out of the house (so) I don't just sit," she said. "It's something I can come and do."

On Thursday morning, Lawton operated the hospital's gift shop, located near the front entrance.

Some days are slow, she said.

But, eventually, the waiting pays off.

"When you can help one person, it makes it worthwhile being here," she said.

Lawton said she believes she makes the greatest contribution to the hospital when she works at the reception desk.

"Once in a while, you have somebody you really help, and that feels good," she said.

On her early morning shift at the desk, Simpson tries to bring some relief to incoming patients, especially those who come in for day surgeries.

"We kind of seat them and entertain them until the office opens," she said.

The topics of conversation she raises with the patients range from the weather to world events to "just the general whatever," she said.

Among various other duties, the Pink Ladies also donate small toys to young patients.

"Hopefully, it gives them a good feeling about being in the hospital," Lawton said.

Comments

grannyrett 6 years, 4 months ago

This is such a fun way to volunteer. Years ago, they had candy stripers. Do they still do that? When I was 15, I would walk from the old junior high building to the hospital to help. What fun it was! There were many things we got to do. We handed out meal trays and freshened up water jugs. It was a real treat to visit with those who were often very lonely during the day while their families worked. We also helped in the lab. It feels great to do little things that make others feel better.

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.