The Trail hospital has benefited a million-plus ways since the red vested-volunteers of the hospital auxiliary began lending a hand and raising dollars through feel-better gifts 75 years ago.
Since 1988 alone, the Trail Hospital Auxiliary has donated $1.1 million to the regional facility.
“The Trail Hospital Auxiliary has always had an important role in the Trail Hospital and now KBRH (Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital),” says former president Allana Ferro, currently the area’s director for BCAHA (BC Association of Healthcare Auxiliaries).
“Its purpose is to provide volunteer services and raise funds in order to enhance the quality of health care at KBRH.”
It all began in 1943 when the Trail Hospital Auxiliary was formed by Miss Heeny, the superintendent of nurses. According to the auxiliary’s impeccably kept minutes, Miss Heeny asked several ladies to consider forming the organization – until then nurses ran the show and CM&S (Cominco) was the primary donor of equipment and free oxygen, as well as free steam and heat to the hospital and nurses quarters.
The first meeting was held on June 29 in the nurses residence, by Honorary President Mrs. S.G. Blaylock, President Mrs. E.S. Hoare, Vice President Mrs. Herb Clark, and Mrs. Archie Miller, Secretary Treasurer.
One of the earliest volunteer services was a library. Auxiliary women circulated books to patients on a donated “Safeway cart” until the Cominco carpenter shop built the group a sturdier model a few years later.
This service continues today although a myriad of other auxiliary duties have been added over time, including manning the lobby’s information desk, delivering mail, rolling the candy cart floor-to-floor, and portering. That’s all in addition to impressive fundraising through daily gift shop sales and portable T.V. rentals.
“Things are ever changing and there are tasks we are not allowed to do,” Ferro explained. “But the (auxiliary) does whatever they can because they love to volunteer, they need to be with people or they are lonely and looking for purpose. And anyone can volunteer, if you have time to give, just contact the gift shop.”
Records show the very first request was for a nursery incubator back in September 1944. There’s even an archived thank you letter sent to the auxiliary from the hospital board the following year.
Fast forward to 2017, when the group donated $40,000 for the Endoscopy Campaign, $6,300 toward KBRH gardens, and its $10,000 year-end surplus bought new equipment for the surgical and medical floors as well as a commode and recliner for Poplar Ridge and a blood transport cooler for HART.
“The Trail Hospital Auxiliary also has an annual $1,000 bursary for a Grade 12 student that volunteers and is continuing in the medical field,” said Ferro. “And we also contribute $100 annually to a Selkirk College Bursary from the Kootenay Boundary Area Auxiliaries.”
Ferro’s history with the auxiliary dates back to 1999, and her history with the hospital, even further.
She was a Candy Striper from 1966 to 1969, and enjoyed the experience so much Ferro continued on by taking the Licenced Practical Nursing course in Nelson.
Now Ferro is working to bring the Candy Striper program back to KBRH, although these days its simply referred to as the Youth Volunteer Program.
“The Candy Striper program was very successful in the past and ceased in the early 1980s.” she said. “It gave J.L. Crowe students who wanted to pursue a medical career an opportunity to touch on what was involved in nursing and minimal patient contact.”
The Island Health Authority runs a very good youth program in the Cowichan District Hospital, Ferro explained.
“And I am trying to reactivate this program here at KBRH,” she added. “I have spoken with the high school staff and now trying to get the hospital administration on board … it is taking more time than anticipated. But it can happen and (we) just need to be patient!”
The original hospital, called the Trail Tadanac Hospital, opened in 1926 and was located on the corner of Victoria and Cedar Avenue in downtown Trail. The “new” 150-bed hospital opened in June 1952, by the Honourable Eric Martin, Minister of Health and Welfare. The auxiliary noted, “Member of Parliament Herbert W. Herridge, West Kootenay, stated the hospital ‘unquestionably is one of the finest in the Dominion of Canada.’”
Interestingly, the BCAHA’s Dogwood emblem and pin was designed by Mrs. C.W. McBey, a Trail Hospital Auxiliary member. The drawing design was completed by John Jackson, a Cominco engineer, and first produced by Birks in 1958.