The Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital Auxiliary (DHMHA) is celebrating its 50-year milestone, a considerable feat for the group, which predates Clearwater having a hospital facility.
“It’s amazing when you think about what they started with,” said president Marilyn Collison, who’s been with the auxiliary for about 12 years.
“They fostered a good relationship with the community and I think that’s why we’ve had so much support over all these 50 years for all of our efforts, as well as the fact everybody needs a hospital at some point.”
The purpose of the hospital auxiliary is to fundraise for patient care equipment, and the Clearwater group has brought in more than $670,000 for the cause over the decades, donating as much as $117,000 in a single year.
Education is also part of its mandate and the DHMHA gives an annual bursary to students graduating from Clearwater Secondary School who are entering the health care field.
According to information provided by the group, it all began in the late 1960s when North Thompson area citizens were lobbying the government for a health care facility, and though one had yet to be built, DHMHA founding member Mavis Parker decided the group would be ready for when it finally was.
In February 1970 Parker contacted a number of local ladies from Little Fort to Avola and hosted an organizational meeting in her home, and with help from the Royal Inland Hospital Auxiliary and B.C. Association of Healthcare Auxiliaries, the local auxiliary was born.
Two years later the original Dr. Helmcken Memorial Hospital was constructed.
“The way it was presented back then, it was a community-minded group and so they were well-received and I think they can attribute their success to the fact they were very approachable and everybody understood what the cause was — they were a real hard-working group,” said Collison.
Some of the early fundraisers were Klondike Night, fashion shows, dinner dance shows, afternoon tea and two Quality Auctions that were held.
These were big money raisers and took a lot of time and dedication from the members. Part of the proceeds of both auctions was turned over to the Regional Hospital in Kamloops and in 1995 the auxiliary sponsored an Oktoberfest with the help of the community.
The DHMHA used to be split into units with members in nearby communities like Birch Island, Sunshine Valley and Vavenby along with the Clearwater unit. Today, the Vavenby unit is the only one separate from Clearwater, and it’s home to the Auxiliary Thrift Shop, which is the largest yearly fundraiser for the group.
The Vavenby unit also hosts an annual Christmas Craft Fair.
The Birch Island unit once hosted many successful Skate-a-thons that were great fundraisers and the Sunshine Valley unit sponsored the No-host Bazaar held in November with Santa in attendance that lasted for 35 years.
Clearwater unit hosted Spring and Fall Flea Markets and used to host Strawberry Tea at Parker’s to honor the local seniors.
The long-awaited new multi-level care hospital opened June 10, 2002, with an excited procession of extended care residents wheeled up the road from the old hospital to the new. The auxiliary was given an area for a Gift Corner shortly after, that opened in December 2002.
Pauline Gregory spearheaded setting up a TV and music fund that would ensure these services would be provided for the hospital for years to come.
One of the more recent big-ticket items purchased for the hospital was a space lab, which is equipment that offers direct communication from a patient in the facility to off-site professionals around the province in real-time.
Collison said the reason auxiliary members are inspired to continue their work, and in turn, maintain the longevity of the organization, is the simple fact they have a good time doing it.
“We all say if it’s not a good time then we shouldn’t be doing this. We always have a lot of fun when we’re doing our fundraisers and I know the girls at the Thrift Store in Vavenby all have a good time together,” she said.
“It’s the social connections. We’re all volunteers. It’s a common goal and realizing we’re appreciated in the community, the support we get is really inspirational.”
Due to the amount of work that goes into fundraisers, the DHMHA has whittled its events down to two per year, which include the 50/50 draw and the annual Garden Party that takes place on the first Sunday of May.
This year the Garden Party is going with the 50th-anniversary theme and will be held on May 3 at the Blackpool Hall.