Hornell hospital auxiliary turns 100 - Catholic Courier

Hornell hospital auxiliary turns 100

The St. James Mercy Hospital Auxiliary has spread good will around Hornell for 100 years — and its current level of enthusiasm should carry the volunteer group well into its second century.

The auxiliary celebrated its anniversary with a luncheon held May 11 at Rupert’s at the Lodge. Special guests that day included Clarence (Ted) LaLiberty Jr., chief executive officer of St. James Mercy Health System; Hornell Mayor Shawn Hogan; retired St. James Mercy CEOs Paul Shepard and Sister Ann Caufield (Sister Mary Scholastica), RSM; and former staff members Sister Mary Augustine Malley, RSM, and Sister Mary Andre, RSM.

Today the auxiliary is 160 members strong, according to Betty Arcangeli, secretary. They stage such fundraising events as a holiday bazaar; food fair; lobby sales; prize drawings; a “rock-a-thon” (the rocking-chair version); and “Trees of Life,” a fundraiser where donors provide memorial or gift ornaments on trees at both St. James Mercy Hospital and Mercycare Nursing Facility. Many from the auxiliary also take part in public-policy advocacy on health-care issues.

Auxiliary members volunteer regularly in many parts of the hospital, most notably in the auxiliary-operated gift shops at St. James Mercy and Mercycare. “We did almost $90,000 in business last year,” noted Arcangeli, who serves as gift-shop treasurer. At its June 2004 meeting, the auxiliary donated $22,000 to the St. James Mercy Health Foundation — including $12,000 in profits from the gift shop alone.

The auxiliary — originally called the Women’s Board of Managers and later the Women’s Board — was begun in January 1904, 14 years after St. James Mercy Hospital was founded. Membership at that time was limited, said Mary Patti, auxiliary historian.

“Years ago it was mostly doctors’ wives and prominent business people,” said Patti, who has belonged to the auxiliary for 53 years. A former nurse supervisor at St. James Mercy Hospital, she is also the wife of the late Dr. C.E. Patti, a longtime St. James Mercy doctor.

Early members were known for donating to the hospital hand-sewn items as well as fruits and vegetables. Auxiliary membership was expanded in the late 1940s, and by that time the group was also increasing its fundraising efforts to help defray the cost of hospital supplies and equipment.

Arcangeli, a retired guidance counselor who joined the auxiliary 43 years ago, said she was glad for the chance to be involved with St. James Mercy.
“The hospital is so important in the community,” she said.

Whereas Arcangeli and Patti have lengthy auxiliary affiliations, current president Joan Watches only joined four years ago when she retired from her longtime nursing position at St. James Mercy.

“I had always wanted to be a part of it. They do such great things for the departments of the hospital,” Watches remarked.

Watches — who, along with Patti and Arcangeli, attends St. Ann’s Church in Hornell — said volunteering in the gift shop has helped keep her connected with staff members.“ When you work in a hospital all your life and you lose that contact with the nurses and doctors, it’s great to get back there to catch up on everybody,” she said.

Staying connected also applies to the many members who no longer live in Hornell. “They still keep up their membership just to see what we’re doing,” Patti said.

As the auxiliary moves into the 21st century, Watches said the auxiliary is striving to increase its base of younger members. Arcangeli added that the predominately female group is also open to men. “Now we accept anybody and everybody,” she noted.

Perhaps the only requirement is for prospective members to give freely of their time and energy, a trait that has distinguished the auxiliary throughout its existence. “They will just do anything; they help so much,” Patti said of her fellow auxiliary members.

“Once women feel they’re needed, they’ll continue to help you over and above what they do for their own families,” Watches added.

“It’s a good feeling, and we know we’re contributing so much to the community,” Arcangeli said. “We do so much good, but we do have fun while doing it — we stress that fundraising is ‘fun-raising.’ It’s a nice ratio as far as work and play.”

Arcangeli said the auxiliary has been motivated by solid backing from hospital administration over the years. “You have to have that support and approval, get that pat on the back,” she said.

Of course, she pointed out, the hospital knows a good thing when they’ve got it. “If you added up all our hours and charged by the hour, they’d have to pay a lot of staff,” Arcangeli said with a laugh.

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