Celebrating 100 years of Auxiliary Service

Shortly after the hospital was formed in 1919, a group of local ladies had the foresight and commitment to realize it would need both financial and volunteer support.  Mrs. Henry (Ardelle) Oswald, a local resident and former member of the Mary Free Bed Guild of Grand Rapids, called a meeting for prospective members.  Those motivated ladies formed their Guild in record time.  The active members ponied up $2.50 to join, while associate members pitched in $5.00.   This was a fairly substantial commitment in a time when average hourly earnings were just over 56 cents!

They formed the Guild just in time, because they received their first request for assistance in November of 1919…just two short months after they came together!  During the next 11 years, they helped cover costs for 190 patients who did not have financial means to pay for essential medical care.

The Guild provided financial support for patient care, and also raised money for practical needs. Their first recorded gift to the hospital was two electric fans, purchased for $32.40 in 1924.  (That’s about $466 in today’s dollars.)  But they didn’t stop there.  They started giving out scholarships to medical students in the late 1950s.  They started their prestigious gift shop in a closet, way back in 1961!  They faithfully enriched the health system every year with capital enhancements both large and small.  The Auxiliary has raised more than $1.3 million for various needs in the health system over their 100-year history…and that total doesn’t account for inflation!

The Auxiliary celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1994.  Ginny Guy, the Auxiliary president at that time, penned words that are strikingly appropriate today, 25 years later.  “The services of the volunteer have changed as the hospital and the community have continued to grow.  The role of the hospital volunteer has not changed. We volunteer because we care.  We care about our local hospital as a place that maintains wellness.  We care about our community — that it is a healthy community. And we care about others.”

One hundred years later, the Auxiliary is still a powerhouse of community engagement. More than 300 people donate a staggering 25,000 hours per year to bring joy and comfort to their neighbors.  Jackie Thoroughman, now president of the Auxiliary, echoes Ginny’s words.  “We are members of the community who care for the community.  The tradition of caring, fundraising and volunteering is nothing short of amazing.”

Get Involved!

Want to learn more about volunteering for your health system? You can complete

a volunteer application online at, or stop by the front lobby to pick up a brochure. Kristyn Ireland, Manager of Volunteer Services and the Gift Shop, also welcomes prospective volunteers to chat by calling (616) 847-5215 or emailing

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