The humble beginnings of the Langley Memorial Hospital Auxiliary pre-date the hospital itself.
Before LMH was built, local women formed a group that knitted socks and sewed bandages for the Red Cross during the Second World War.
In September, 1948 the cottage hospital opened to patients, and then the main hospital opened in February, 1965.
The auxiliary turns 70 this year and is marking the occasion with a members-only birthday party on Sept. 25.
Over the past seven decades, the auxiliary has raised millions of dollars for the ‘hospital on the hill.’
The lifeblood of the auxiliary’s fundraising is the Penny Pincher Thrift Shop at 20560 Fraser Hwy.
And it just so happens that both are celebrating an anniversary, with Penny Pincher marking its 40th year.
“We’ve been around a long time,” auxiliary president Diane Thornton said.
“I still think there are people out there who don’t know who we are or what we do, or confuse us with the (Langley Memorial Hospital) Foundation.”
This was the first full year the auxiliary has run the Penny Pincher shop at the shop’s location on the east end of the one-way section of Fraser Highway (the former Coast Capital Savings building).
“And we had the biggest profits,” Thornton said.
“So we’re always trying to encourage ourselves to see if we can push that figure.”
Thornton said both the LMH auxiliary and foundation share the same goals — raising funds for the hospital — but stressed “we are two separate organizations.
“We are all volunteer-based and they are professional fundraisers.”
Last year, the auxiliary pledged $753,000 worth of equipment for LMH, Thornton said.
“It was a little unusual,” said director Thelma Boileau, who has been with the auxiliary for 17 years.
“We wouldn’t pledge that much every year but what happened was, one of the major pledges we made from the previous year was cancelled, so that money rolled over into last year.”
The decision to take on the role of volunteer president was natural for Thornton, given her background.
“I come from a long line of volunteers.
“My mother was a big volunteer with the auxiliary in Powell River and I have two sisters who both volunteer there, as well,” she explained.
That family history is what attracted Thornton to the auxiliary.
“I knew what it was, and I knew what I did through my mom and the work that she did,” Thornton said.
She’s driven — like all of the auxiliary’s volunteers who spend their time at the Penny Pincher store and manning the gift shop at LMH — for the betterment of the hospital.
“Our tag line for this year is ‘70 years of serving our hospital and our community,’” Thornton said.
“Not only do we raise funds for the hospital through Penny Pincher and the gift shop, we also have been involved over the past seven years in a lot of other programs.”
Programs sponsored by the auxiliary include residential care, acute care, junior volunteers, meet and greet, and pastoral care.
As well, the information desk at LMH is staffed by auxiliary volunteers, and the auxiliary sponsors the ‘VolunTEEN’ program for volunteers aged 19 and under who socialize with patients, man the information desk, and offer reading materials on patient units.
The success of the auxiliary not only hinges on the volunteers, but also on the people who purchase items at the thrift shop, vendor tables at LMH and the hospital gift shop.
Thornton said the reason for giving is simple.
“We all have some kind of connection to the hospital,” she said.
“And what’s donated, stays in Langley.”
More volunteers are always appreciated, especially those of the male persuasion.
“Good, strong men who don’t say a lot and have good backs,” Thornton said half-jokingly.
For more about the auxiliary and its programs, visit langleymemorialhospitalauxiliary.ca.