What Would Wilcox Do Without Auxiliary?

Vicky Thrift, president of Wilcox Memorial Auxiliary, in the hospital gift shop

Auxiliary work by volunteers such as Vicky Thrift make it possible for Wilcox hospital to purchase the most modern medical equipment

Vicky Thrift, president of Wilcox Memorial Auxiliary for the past five years, says after a lifetime of volunteering, her role at Wilcox has been among the most rewarding of her volunteer experiences.

“We have a great time together,” she says.

“When I was growing up in Atlanta, my mother encouraged me to volunteer, and so at the age of 14 I started as a ‘candy striper.’ Volunteering was ingrained early on in me, and I believe if you get young people involved, they will continue to give throughout their lives.”

When she and her husband Wayne moved to Kaua’i to retire after a long career with AT&T, they “knew not a soul! Only through our church did I find out about the auxiliary,” she says.

“That was eight years ago. Now the incredible circle of friends we have and sense of community have largely come from my involvement and volunteer work.”

The 80 volunteers (ranging in age from 40s to 90s) accomplish more than friendship and fun – in 2007 the auxiliary reached the $2 million mark, and every year since it has averaged $100,000.

“The monies raised from our thrift shop and gift shop as well as donations are used to purchase equipment and supplies for the hospital,” Thrift says.

Kathy Clark, Wilcox CEO, adds, “Our volunteers are very, very special to the hospital and to me. They give of themselves to make things better, and the money they raise through their efforts has become an incredible resource for needed equipment throughout the hospital’s departments.”

The auxiliary was founded in the 1970s and continues to rely solely on donations to the thrift shop.

“When I first came to Kaua’i I had no sense of what ‘aloha’ meant,” Thrift admits. “Until you’ve been here for awhile, you don’t know how giving and concerned this community is.”

She says the donations come in steadily and she is always grateful for the generosity that enables the auxiliary to pass the giving onto the patients.

“Aside from the two shops,” she adds, “we run the in-service help desk.

It’s a station that helps direct visitors to patients’ rooms or do small errands for the nurses.”

The volunteer program requires an orientation as well as confidentiality agreements, just as the entire staff of the hospital adheres to.

Clark says, “We treat the volunteers like employees in this matter – the competency and privacy training is very important to us.”

Although the auxiliary has been successfully active under the leadership of Thrift, Clark says there is a lot of room for expansion.

“We have a great group of adults currently volunteering, but we are adding a high school program next year,” she says. “It will be wonderful to have a mix of ages – it’s good experience for the young people and good for the patients to be around them as well.”

Clark outlined the future of the program: “We’re looking at really expanding what the volunteers can do here, and I’m working with individual floors and departments to develop their possible roles. We want more volunteer stations in the emergency and surgery departments, for example. We want to get them to be a bigger part of customer satisfaction. I think they can have more interaction with the patients, helping nurses but also servicing book carts, filling water pitchers or keeping family members abreast of surgery status.”

Thrift hopes to continue her role as president for at least a few more years, but “after my term is over, I will still volunteer for the auxiliary. I’ll be happy to pass the torch to someone else with zeal and energy to continue the work.”

She reflects on the cumulative effect her involvement with Wilcox has given her: “You often hear that adage ‘the island either embraces you or spits you out.’ I have to say I was very close to being spit out before I joined the auxiliary. It really has been incredibly rewarding for me. I hope people will read this article and decide to get involved.”

For more information on Wilcox Auxiliary volunteer programs, call Vicky Thrift at 822-3718.

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