Ever since Holyoke Medical Center first opened its doors as Holyoke City Hospital in 1893, the Auxiliary Association has been raising funds to support its mission. “I’ve lived in the area my whole life,” says Merle Ryan, a 15-year member of the Auxiliary and its most recent president. “When I started volunteering after retiring from the University of Massachusetts, I realized what a valuable asset the hospital is to the community. I felt very strongly about helping it achieve its goals.”
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And that’s just what Merle and her fellow Auxiliary members have done, carrying on a long tradition of raising money for a variety of hospital projects, from purchasing medical equipment to updating a waiting room and remodeling the coffee shop.
As more families have come to rely on two incomes, the Auxiliary has had to accomplish its goals with fewer and fewer volunteers. Last year the group had to dissolve. But it went out with a bang: The Auxiliary’s final gift to the hospital—$254,000—brings total donations over the years to nearly $2 million. “That represents a lot of fundraising,” says Merle.
Some of the ways the Auxiliary raised money included a monthly craft fair and an annual apple-pie sale. “Hospital staff and Auxiliary members would bake pies for people to buy and take home for Thanksgiving,” says Merle. “We also used to put on fundraising galas with dinner and dancing, and wine tastings—those were hugely successful and fun to do.”
With regard to the current capital campaign and the improvements it will bring, Merle is thrilled. “The new emergency department is going to be fabulous,” she says. “The existing ED is tiny —much too small for the community. I’ve seen renderings of the interior of the new ED, and it’s the most modern, up-to-date ED in the whole area.”
In addition to being part of the Auxiliary, Merle has volunteered at Holyoke Medical Center as a patient representative. “Time and time again patients would rave about how well they were treated and the excellent care they received,” she says. “That personal touch is really important and gives tremendous value to the community. Many patients told me that Holyoke was their first-choice hospital because of the care they received.”
Merle credits the staff for making the hospital such a valued part of the community. “All the way from the housekeepers to the president, everyone believes in their job and believes in the hospital,” she says.
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