Chances are if you have walked through the main entrance to Whitesburg Appalachian Regional Hospital you have been greeted with a friendly smile from someone sitting behind the front desk. Did it make your trip to the hospital a little more pleasant?
Friendly service is the goal of a group of about 30 volunteers who make up the Whitesburg ARH Auxiliary. They take pride in helping others and look forward to making hospital experiences a little brighter for patients and visitors by using their welcoming personalities.
“It makes people feel good to know there is someone they can talk to,” said Dorothy Miles, a member of the Auxiliary.
Neucedia “Cedar” Miller, a member of the Auxiliary, says no one likes to go to the hospital but if someone goes out of their way to ask them how they are doing, it will make for a better visit.
“I think they enjoy seeing a friendly face at the front desk,” said Rita Collins, a member of the Auxiliary.
Collins enjoys taking time to sit and talk with people as they wait to be admitted to the hospital or wait their turn to be seen in the x-ray department or the laboratory.
Martha Blair, an Auxiliary member, also enjoys meeting new people and greeting them as they walk through the hospital.
“I’m very blessed to be here and to be able to give back to our community,” said Blair.
Diane Lewis, who says volunteering with the Auxiliary is very rewarding to her, thinks people are thankful when she gets a patient a pillow or a wheelchair.
“It seems like the patients are so appreciative,” said Lewis.
Pat Yinger, president of the Auxiliary, is the longest-serving member of the Auxiliary.
“I enjoy being around people, knowing how they feel and what is going on with them,” said Yinger, who has volunteered with the hospital since 1986.
Cheryl Hall, a former Whitesburg ARH executive secretary to the administrator, was in charge of the Auxiliary during the 1980s.
“It has grown in membership and they have continued to be faithful,” said Hall.
The volunteer group was created in the early 1960s under the name of The Pink Ladies. The name was changed in the 1980s to the Auxiliary when a couple of men joined the group. The Auxiliary doesn’t currently have any men volunteers but Rachel Breeding, volunteer coordinator at the Whitesburg hospital, said men are welcome to join the group.
Most of the women are retired from education, health care and clerical fields.
“They represent mature women who are role models in this community,” said Dena Sparkman, Whitesburg ARH community chief executive officer. “They didn’t just end their careers and go home. They really want to just give back.”
Sparkman and Rachel Breeding both referred to the Auxiliary as being a fun group.
“They are so young at heart and are so energetic and fun,” said Breeding. “They just give so freely of everything and are very proud of what they do at this hospital. They are such a pleasure to work with.”
The women collectively contribute about 2,700 volunteer hours a year.
“I wanted to do something that would be of service to everyone in my community,” said Patsy Bowen, a member of the Auxiliary.
Geri Haynes, an Auxiliary member, said volunteering gives her a reason to get out in the community and help others.
“I enjoy the commodore and I feel useful,” said Auxiliary member Reva Sergent.
Janie Smith, another member of the Auxiliary, said it’s a blessing to serve others.
“It’s a lot of fulfillment,” said Auxiliary member Irene Smith.
Sandy Banks joined the Auxiliary after she retired from the school system. Her mother and husband had recently died and she was grateful for the services she had received by the hospital staff .
“I just wanted to give back in service as a way if saying thank you for all the things they did for my family,” said Banks.
In addition to providing information at the front desk, members of the Auxiliary give silver spoons to new mothers, cough pillows to surgical patients, and books, crayons and teddy bears to sick children admitted into the hospital.
Shirley Breeding, who sews about a dozen cough pillows a month, says her favorite part about volunteering with the Auxiliary is the smiles she sees on people’s faces when she hands them a book, pillow or spoon.
Auxiliary member Nova Poloskey said her favorite task is to take spoons to the new mothers, while Miles likes to takes books to children.
The Auxiliary also supplies the hospital with cartoon character Band-Aids and stickers to be given to children when they get blood drawn or are administered immunizations.
“They will go the extra mile for a patient or their families,” said Rachel Breeding.
Through fund-raisers such as bake sales and bazaars, the Auxiliary has raised money to purchase floatation mattresses, retractable showerheads, educational materials, blood pressure cuff s and Fax machines.
“All of the money we make comes back into the hospital to promote hospital care,” said Rachel Breeding.
The Auxiliary has pledged a commitment of $10,000 to the ARH renovation and expansion project known as the Build, Heal, Thrive Campaign.
The Auxiliary has hosted book fairs, jewelry shows and uniform shows to raise funds.
People can also donate money to the Auxiliary and ask that the donation be used in a certain way. At least four families recently made contributions to the Auxiliary asking it to purchase sleep chairs.
The Tree of Life is the biggest and most popular fund-raiser the Auxiliary organizes each year. People pay $5 for a light on a large Christmas tree to honor a loved one who has died. Everidge Funeral Home and Letcher Funeral Home purchase a light for each person who has died the previous year. A ceremony is held the first Sunday in December to honor those who have died. The Rev. Steve Peake, an admissions clerk at the hospital, conducts the worship service. This year, after a prayer was said and the tree was lit, a crowd of about 200 people gathered around the tree to sing “Silent Night.”
In 2008, the Auxiliary was named “Outstanding ARH Auxiliary of the Year” for the success of the Tree of Life. That same year the Kentucky Hospital Association awarded the Auxiliary a HANDS (Helping Accomplish Noteworthy Duties Successfully) award for community outreach.
In 2010, Shirley Breeding received the ARH President’s Outstanding Volunteer Award.
“These ladies just do a phenomenal job,” said Sparkman. “What they do for us is just invaluable.”
If you would like additional information about volunteering with the Auxiliary, call Rachel Breeding at 633-3500.