Hospital Auxiliary set to deliver sweet treats for Strawberry Social

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer
dadam@fortfrances.com

Since 1955, the Strawberry Social has been a staple of the LaVerendrye General Hospital Auxiliary’s fundraising operations.

After a two-year absence, Auxiliary president Irene Laing says she’s looking forward to bringing back the historic event on June 16.

“I’m a traditionalist. To me, it seems like an honour to be carrying on something that’s got such a long history,” she says. “I’m looking forward to being able to bring a little bit of delight to people. I think it’ll be a nice treat for them to be able to order some of our shortcakes.”

Laing says for $6, you will receive strawberries, shortcake, and ice cream.

Due to rain likelihood and a lack of alternatives, this year’s fundraiser will be delivery only. Laing says in years past if it were to rain, they would simply go inside and operate from the hospital’s lobby and cafeteria.

This year, they can’t — the lobby is still being used as a COVID-19 screening area, and the cafeteria remains under pandemic restrictions.

“We didn’t have a backup plan for rain. And given the forecast, chances are pretty good that it will rain,” says Laing. “But we didn’t want to go another year without doing the Strawberry Social because a lot of people really look forward to it, so we decided that this year would be delivery only.”

Most of the Social’s usual customers require delivery anyways. Laing says local businesses buy over half of the servings they provide. She says both businesses and individuals are welcome to order.

Laing says delivery requests should be made no later than June 10. To order, businesses can call Helen at 274-6673, and individuals can call Joanne at 274-5932 with a minimum order of two.

The Social is an Auxiliary fundraiser. This year, the Auxiliary made a $70,000 pledge to support the “Picture This” campaign — a district-wide effort to upgrade X-ray equipment. Laing says the money they raise through the Strawberry Social will go directly toward paying off that pledge.

“As with all of the events, our goal is to raise funds to purchase equipment for the hospital, so that we can ensure as much health care can be provided locally,” says Auxiliary member Marnie Cumming. “I think people enjoy the social aspect of coming together, knowing they’re supporting such a great cause.”

Laing says Auxiliary members use coolers to help deliver. The shortcakes are prepared, frozen, and then delivered. She says usually, when people order, they give a specific time. With businesses, the deliveries commonly coincide with lunch or coffee breaks, which Laing says works well.

Laing says when the Social first began, just three years after the Auxiliary’s inception, the event only featured shortcake. Over time, they’ve added simultaneous ongoing events — a book sale, penny table, plants table, bake sale, and pick-a-strawberry.

“I think over the years the whole thing has evolved,” says Laing. “It’s become quite a production.”

Unfortunately, the rain prevents those extra events from happening this year.

“We’re a casualty of the weather,” she says.

Though this event is not its usual self, the Auxiliary looks forward to having these traditional events back, both now and in the future.