IT WAS 99 years ago that a group of women banded together to help create the first hospital in Mission.
At that time, the nearest public hospital was in New Westminster.
In 1920, these women met and formed the “Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.” Led by its president, Emma Houlder, who was also a member of the newly formed Mission Memorial Hospital board, the two groups joined forces and rented a house on the corner of Third Avenue and Birch Street.
With $150 raised from a bazaar, they were able to open the first hospital in Mission on May 15, 1920.
After much fundraising, a new hospital was opened on James Street and Fifth Avenue in February 1925. From the beginning, the hospital was known as Mission Memorial Hospital as a living memorial to the men of Mission who died in the First World War.
In 1965, the hospital moved again, to its present location on Hurd Street. It has had several structural changes over the years, including major projects such as the building of the Campus for Care and replacing the Complex-Care Unit.
In those early years, the ladies of the auxiliary not only raised money for the hospital by means of raffles, bake sales, musical evenings and catering but they also did the laundry in their own homes.
Fast forward to today, and members of the auxiliary – now named the Mission Health Care Auxiliary Society – are still raising money to help patients and staff at the hospital.
Auxiliary members are hoping to do something very special next year.
“It’s our 100th anniversary on April 9, 2020. So we are planning a very large project to celebrate that anniversary,” said Alyce Campbell, past president of the auxiliary.
The actual 100th birthday celebration is still in the planning stage, but one thing is for sure – the auxiliary wants to celebrate the occasion by holding the largest fundraising project in its century-long history.
The auxiliary is hoping to raise half a million dollars for the hospital.
That exceeds the largest project the auxiliary has ever done – which they did four years ago – raising $300,000 for a new ultrasound machine.
“We didn’t just buy the ultrasound machine, but we paid for the renovations of the room as well,” Campbell said.
They managed to raise the money over a three-year period.
Organizers say raising $500,000 is the perfect way to celebrate 100 years of volunteer service. However, they have yet to decide what the money will be used for.
“It will go to the hospital, in some form or another,” said Joanne Bydal, vice-president of the auxiliary.
Fundraising campaigns are set to begin soon, but both Campbell and Bydal agree that most of the money will come for the society’s most popular source of fundraising – the Cottage Thrift Store on First Avenue.
The store sells items that have been donated to the auxiliary and it is so popular that it was expanded last year, after taking over the adjacent space to double in size.
The store is run by volunteers. In fact, the majority of the auxiliary’s 140 volunteers work in the store.
“It takes a lot of staff to operate that building,” said Bydal.
While the thrift store provides most of the money, the auxiliary has other sources of income as well.
Volunteers run the gift shop at Mission Memorial Hospital and they also purchased all of the televisions on the second floor to rent to the patients.
“We’ve got a good program running on that. Every bed has got a television and it’s important for the patients,” Campbell said.
They are now looking to purchase another 10 televisions.
The society also raises money by loaning medical equipment – such as crutches and walkers – for donations.
Not everything the auxiliary does is about fundraising. It also offers much-needed services to patients and staff.
Many of the volunteers help the hospital with ambulatory day care.
According to Campbell and Bydal, “when someone comes in for a day-care procedure, the volunteers do all the paperwork for them.
“The hospital gives us a list of who is coming in and the procedures, and the volunteers get them ready to be taken in.”
Auxiliary volunteers also work at the reception desk to help people find their way around the hospital, and they volunteer at TRIM (The Residence In Mission), a long-term care facility.
Another service they provide is supplying underwear, sweatshirts, sweatpants, running shoes and socks in the ER.
“So if some folks come in and they are living on the streets and their shoes are soaking wet and their socks and so on, we outfit them,” Campbell said.
Simply put, the auxiliary exists to help people, and they help them when they need it the most.
Bydal said the organization is the “ best-kept secret in Mission.”
“People don’t realize what we do. They just don’t know what auxiliary means and say, ‘Oh, I don’t want to join a service organization, or I don’t have the time.’ ”
She believes many people think it is just “the old-ladies team” sitting around drinking tea.
However, they are a thriving business and a thriving organization that helps the community. The difference is, as a non-profit society, the money they earn goes to help others.
Bydal said many people don’t understand why the auxiliary buys equipment, like the ultrasound machine, for the hospital.
“A lot of people think the provincial government is supposed to be doing that, saying ‘That’s not your job.’ And, yes, that’s true in an ideal world, but we don’t live in an ideal world so we have to help them out,” Bydal said.
Campbell agreed, noting that each year the hospital gives the auxiliary a wish list of items.
“It lists the priorities needed. I’m looking at this list and it says beds. We need to buy beds?”
Both say the need is not limited to Mission. Other auxiliaries around the Fraser Valley tell a similar story.
“If the provincial government supplied all the stuff the hospital would ever need, we wouldn’t be needed,” Bydal said.
With one year to go before the 100th birthday celebration, the auxiliary is, as always, looking for more volunteers.
“We do need volunteers. We have a crying need for volunteers. They can go to the website or go to the gift shop or the Cottage Thrift Store and pick up an application form.”
For more, visit missionhealthcareauxiliary.wordpress.com.