The El Camino Hospital Auxiliary vision reads: “Render volunteer service to the Hospital, its patients, and the community; to grant scholarships in support of health professions; and to provide financial support for approved projects.”
Now with nearly 6 million hours of volunteer service on the books, the Auxiliary got its start in 1958, a few years before El Camino Hospital officially opened in 1961. The Auxiliary celebrated its 60th anniversary Sept. 1.
Then-CEO Ed Hawkins asked his wife to gather together doctors’ wives and other volunteers from the five cities that made up the hospital district. On the hospital’s opening day, the “Pink Ladies,” as they were affectionately named for the pink pinafores they wore, were hard at work.
Longtime volunteer Judy Van Dyck, a former nurse who is celebrating her 37th year with the organization, said back when she was Auxiliary president in 1996, there were 1,200 senior volunteers and 200 juniors. The combined total is now 760.
“It’s a big change, but there are so many more volunteer opportunities now than there were,” she said.
There’s also the fact that most young women work nowadays, and older women are often busy babysitting their grandchildren. The Auxiliary includes some men, mostly retirees, among its members.
Carol Carey, Auxiliary board president, touted some of the 25 services the organization covers, including mother-baby assistance, patient care liaison, patient escort, errands, the information desk, emergency room and waiting room assistance, safety checks, a library with up-to-date magazines and the Java Junction coffee shop, whose profits fund Auxiliary projects.
The Auxiliary also has a “‘getting to know you’ program that interviews patients that are here more long term (such as stroke patients), and they do kind of a life story and give it to the family,” she said.
Two other key programs include the Hooks and Needles group, which makes colorful hats for infants and cancer patients and cozy afghans for people undergoing chemo, and the Pinkies group.
“They make little pillows for people who’ve had abdominal surgery,” Carey said of the Pinkies. “If you have to cough, it hurts, so you hold the pillow against your incision – people love them.”
In addition to the many services, a big part of a volunteer’s job is reaching out to people – comforting patients and their worried families.
“I always say, if I can make one frown into a smile, then I’ve done what I’m supposed to be doing,” Van Dyck said. To volunteer and for more information, visit ech-auxiliary.org.