Comforting with Kindness The Faithful Service of NOCHS Auxiliary Makes all the Difference

If a friend told you about a place where, “More than 300 people donate a staggering 25,000 hours per year to bring joy and comfort to their neighbors,” what would you envision? You might think about a mission, or a soup kitchen or some other social service. However, the place your friend would be describing is North Ottawa Community Health System!

The hospital was built in 1919. And in that same year, community volunteers came together as the North Ottawa Hospital Auxiliary to help the hospital fulfill its mission. Ninety-nine years later, the Auxiliary is still a powerhouse of community engagement. “We are members of the community who care for the community,” says Jackie Thoroughman, President of the Auxiliary. “The tradition of caring, fundraising and volunteering is nothing short of amazing.”

If you’re not sure that things like bunnies, blankets and baby welcome kits make a lasting difference, then you really need to talk to someone who has experienced this kindness and generosity. A mom recently brought her two-year-old son for a procedure, and noted with joy, “The bunnies are still here! I remember getting one when I was a kid.”

A Community Providing Comfort

During the last several years, pediatric dental surgery has become more frequent. And going to the hospital for dental care can be terrifying for a child. An Auxiliary member came up with the idea of Tooth Fairy pillows. Each fanciful little white incisor features a beaming smile and cushy stuffing. A heart-shaped pocket on the back safely secures teeth for the “Tooth Fairy,” while the pillow itself holds warm feelings of safety and love. “Having a cute pillow on the bed when a child arrives helps make the hospital more friendly for our young patients,” says Dr. Darren Riopelle, owner of Little Smiles – Grand Haven, whose Pediatric Dentists perform complicated pediatric procedures at NOCHS. “It’s a surprise
when patients arrive, and they know it will be there when they wake up. That human touch point means a lot to our patients… and their parents.”

We Need Everyone!

The North Ottawa Hospital Auxiliary has a place for everyone, and needs volunteers to keep its traditions alive. “We want to provide that extra bit of comfort and warmth that comes from knowing people in the community care about you,” continues Jackie.

“There are so many ways to become involved! You can work on projects at home, or while you are traveling. We provide all the supplies, and we’ll even pick up or drop off at your house. But we need committed people to help us preserve these meaningful community touch points.” Kristyn Ireland is the Manager of Volunteer Services and the Gift Shop. She notes, “We try to find just the right task for each person who wants to contribute. There’s always a role for people who want to give of their time or abilities.”

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 also welcomes prospective volunteers to chat by calling (616) 847-5215 or emailing

What kinds of things do Auxiliary members do?

Provide gift bags to more than 350 new moms and babies each year
Sew cozy blankets to comfort hospice patients during the holidays
Provide smiling faces and helping hands throughout the hospital, North Ottawa
Care Center and the Hospice Residence at Heartwood Lodge
Lovingly craft 350 fuzzy bunnies each year for young patients
Run a rather renowned Gift Shop that attracts even non-patients
Give approximately $6,000 in medical education scholarships each year to local students studying healthcare
Raise money to invest back in the healthcare system — $70,000 in 2017 alone!

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