Early days of hospital auxiliary recalled

What started as simply delivering newspapers and books to hospital patients has blossomed into a fundraising machine.
The La Verendrye Hospital Auxiliary will celebrate its 50th anniversary with its annual tea this Sunday from 2-4 p.m. at the Red Dog Inn here.
“We had friends in the hospital who liked reading the paper or books and that’s how it got started,” Margaret Agar, one of the auxiliary’s founding members, said yesterday.
Agar was among a handful of women who decided to start helping out at the hospital in 1952, forming what would later be called the La Verendrye Hospital Auxiliary.
She and Florence Challis are the only original members still living in Fort Frances. A half-century ago, they were joined by Nonie Reid, Irene McKellar, Alice Solomon, Joan McLellan, Marion Dolyny, Sig Green, Maud O’Donnell, and Mary Camirand.
“It turned out to be an important thing to the patients of the hospital,” Agar recalled of those early days when a handful of volunteers would push a trolley cart laden with books and papers to the various wards.
In the beginning, she said they did it only a couple of days a week, then it expanded to every day. Soon, they were taking candy bars and other things on the cart to sell to patients, which later resulted in the group starting the gift shop at the hospital.
Agar wasn’t sure how long the original group of women continued before they formally sat down to form the auxiliary, but said from there, it kept growing and growing as friends and neighbours offered to help out.
“We had no idea. It was just over time that it expanded. We didn’t know what it would become when we started it,” she said.
On Sunday, auxiliary president Pat Kozik said they will present Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc. with two cheques for $50,000 each as this year’s contribution to the $500,000 the group pledged for the “Care Close to Home” campaign.
Roughly $2 million has been raised by the auxiliary since it started 50 years ago.
“To think it started in the basement of the hospital and grew to almost 300 people,” Kozik said.