Langley Memorial Hospital is celebrating 75 years of service in this community. In a series of stories over the coming months, the Langley Advance Times, in conjunction with the hospital foundation, takes a look at the past, present, and future of health care in Langley from a few different perspectives.
By Julie Coghlan-Smith/Special to Langley Advance Times
Why do I give back?” asked Wanda Williams, past president of the Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary. “Because it just feels so good.”
Like many of today’s auxiliary members, Williams retired after a full career in the business world.
Searching for a meaningful way to serve her community, she volunteered to work for the gift shop in the Langley Memorial Hospital lobby, and so began her commitment to the Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary.
“Nine of my 10 grandchildren were born at Langley Memorial, two of my daughters were candy stripers, and my mother – who suffered from congestive heart failure – was in and out of the hospital until she finally passed away, so I gravitated towards the hospital,” Williams shared.
The Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary was started by a small group of industrious women in 1947.
They were primarily housewives with excellent sewing, baking, and hospitality skills and soon proved outstanding at organization and raising money.
They initially established four committees quaintly named Sewing, Ways and Means, Social and Publicity. A team of ladies did mending and sewing for the hospital, and money was raised by rummage sales, bazaars, bake sales and teas, coffees and donuts, raffles and whist sales.
Their sewing and mending were prolific, as was the money raised, and today the auxiliary is a registered charity successfully running two social enterprise businesses and providing a range of services to the hospital and community, supported by an extensive network of volunteers comprised of 250 men, women, and teenagers from ages 16 to 90 years of age.
The auxiliary officially started tracking its donations in 1914; since then, it has raised $11 million.
“I am very proud of the money we have raised,” said Williams, who has served consistently on the board in different roles as secretary, vice president, and president since 2017.
Williams volunteers at both Penny Pincher and the gift shop.
The first thrift shop, Superfluity Shop, was opened in 1956, followed by Penny Pincher in 1977.
Today, Penny Pincher achieves an annual revenue of $1 million and owns the buildings in which it operates.
Williams, who spends every Saturday morning at the shop, said that Penny Pincher is their biggest moneymaker.
“People are amazed when we tell them we are volunteers; all the money goes to Langley Memorial Hospital.”
The hospital gift shop started in 1965 as a small nook assigned to the auxiliary on the hospital’s main floor. Auxiliary members would load a cart with goodies and books from the gift nook and take it around the wards twice a week.
Its popularity grew, and the nook expanded into a shop in 1975, and has since been further expanded and renovated.
“I didn’t realize how important the gift shop was to staff, patients, and visitors until we reopened after five months of closure during the COVID pandemic in 2020. We got such a welcome when we re-opened. People come in and out of the shop to pick up a gift, candy, or something to read and chat with the volunteers. We get to hear many stories in the gift shop,” chuckled Williams.
It is women like Williams whose ongoing commitment as an auxiliary member has raised significant funds to purchase urgently needed medical equipment and even fund a recreational bus for residential care.
Their dedication has also greatly contributed to renovations – to the maternity outpatient clinic and $1.5 million towards the new emergency department.
In addition to everything they do with the thrift store and gift shop, auxiliary volunteers also provide Christmas gifts to residents in long-term care and comfort items to patients in acute care. And, the group supports scholarships for those wanting to pursue a career in health care.
“For more than 75 years, the auxiliary has worked hard to make significant improvements to the hospital,” said Williams. “It is inspiring to see how the community rallies around the hospital. On a personal level, volunteering is a healthy thing to do. It has kept me connected to people and has brought friendship and laughter into my life.”
Langley Memorial Hospital Foundation fundraises throughout the year to support health-care workers and allow them to keep providing life-saving care. To this end, the foundation is preparing for its annual hospital gala. This year’s event, dubbed Hot Havana Nights, is being held Oct. 21 at the Coast Hotel & Convention Centre. It’s the 32nd year. Money raised will support the urgent need to expand cardiac care at the Langley Hospital. For info: https://lmhfoundation.com/events/gala
• And, for more LMH history check out this special publication.