Past and present members of the Kootenay Lake Hospital Auxiliary came together Monday for a farewell gathering. The auxiliary is ending after 90 years of service. Photo: Tyler Harper

Past and present members of the Kootenay Lake Hospital Auxiliary came together Monday for a farewell gathering. The auxiliary is ending after 90 years of service. Photo: Tyler Harper

Kootenay Lake Hospital Auxiliary to disband after 90 years

Volunteers had fundraised for Nelson’s hospital since 1931

For nearly a century, the Kootenay Lake Hospital Auxiliary worked to make Nelson’s hospital feel more like home.

Volunteers donated items and ran the gift shop, tended to the gardens, decorated for holidays and made sure the New Year’s baby had a special gift.

They also ran bake sales, sold raffle tickets, and used their funds to buy the hospital items such as specialized wheelchairs, comfy chairs for patients to sit in while giving blood, and more recently a $12,000 stretcher designed for use with patients in need of CPR.

But now, after over a year and a half of a pandemic that has closed the gift shop and scrapped most fundraising efforts, the auxiliary is shutting down.

President Marla Olson said a lack of money and difficulty finding new volunteers contributed to the decision to end the auxiliary, which had served the hospital since 1931. Of the auxiliary’s 65 listed members, Olson said only 20 were still active.

“We were just kind of on hold and in limbo, and a lot of our membership are very elderly,” she said. “To recruit new members is very difficult.”

On Monday, past and present auxiliary volunteers gathered for a final sendoff. Among them was Lou Costain, who volunteered for 46 years and had been around long enough to remember when tobacco was sold in the hospital.

Costain was a stay-at-home mother who began volunteering as a way to keep busy. Her duties involved installing televisions, running the book cart and baking Christmas goods, which she said was always appreciated by staff and patients.

“I’m sure that lots of people will miss that touch. When you’re in hospital now there’s nobody to come around and see you and say, ‘Hey, did you want a TV or did you want a book? Can I get you anything? Do you need a toothbrush or some soap? Did you forget [something] when you came into emerg?’”

Olson said she thought members like Costain who put decades of work into the auxiliary did so in part because they knew everyone, at some point, ends up in a hospital.

“If you’ve not been there yourself, you certainly know someone who has and you kind of always know that what you’re doing is going to go to a cause that gets used and that everybody needs.”

As the members began to disperse Monday after a group photo in front of the hospital, Costain admitted the occasion was a sad one. But it didn’t ruin years of community service that, for her, wasn’t just about the work.

“We kept busy,” she said, “and we had fun.”

The auxiliary is now disposing of its remaining stock, which includes baby quilts, knitting and stuff animals. To inquire about any items, email klhaux@gmail.com. The remaining funds, Olson said, will be donated to the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation.

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@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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