One of the greatest assets of living in Southwest Florida is that we are blessed by large numbers of active volunteers. Lee Memorial Health System and our patients, families, staff and physicians are truly fortunate to have three active volunteer auxiliaries dedicated to assisting our daily patient care mission. Besides serving as a nucleus to volunteers for patient care needs, these auxiliaries help raise funds to support our patients and their families, our employees, physicians and the community.
Of the three auxiliaries, the Lee Memorial Auxiliary has been around the longest. It was founded in 1950 by 30 women dedicated to helping meet the needs of Lee Memorial Hospital. Today, 850 men and women are members of the Lee Memorial Auxiliary, which supports both HealthPark Medical Center and Lee Memorial Hospital.
In 1974, 23 charter members formed what has become the Gulf Coast Medical Center Auxiliary, originally in support of what was then Fort Myers Community Hospital. Today there are more than 220 active members. The Cape Coral Hospital Auxiliary, formed in 1975 with 25 members, is now comprised of 850 active volunteers and auxilians.
Membership in our auxiliaries is not all that has substantially increased through the years. Their donations have, too. Throughout the years, they have donated nearly $12 million to Lee Memorial Health System for technology, facilities, supplies, equipment, programs and services.
Each of the Lee Memorial Health System auxiliaries maintains its own budget and determines how the money will be allocated—always keeping in mind the benefit to our patients and community. Recently, the auxiliaries pledged $650,000 to help build the new regional Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida. For the past few years, each auxiliary has donated $50,000 for educational grants, thereby helping hundreds of students achieve financial support while pursuing degrees in various health care professions. And they have raised funds for so many health system needs, such as wheelchairs, stretchers, defibrillators, blood pressure monitors, parking lot trolley cars and more.
"Initially, the goal of the Gulf Coast Medical Center Auxiliary was to raise funds for scholarships for members in our community interested in pursuing careers in medical-related fields," says Susan Crowe, director of volunteer services and auxiliary development at Gulf Coast Medical Center. "Since our inception, we have given more than $1.4 million in scholarships. While that is still one of our major initiatives, through the years, we expanded our reach and began investing in the Hearts and Hands Gift Shop, the Uniform Store, programs like Huggie Hearts—hand-sewn pillows for cardiac patients—as well as equipment like supplies for labor and delivery, walkers for physical therapy rehabilitation and trolley carts."
Donna Bradish, director of volunteers and auxiliary development for Cape Coral Hospital and Lee Memorial Hospital, adds that the primary objective of the auxiliaries is to support the health system's mission. "This is done through fundraising, organized teamwork, community health education and advocacy," she explains. "Both the Cape Coral Hospital and the Lee Memorial auxiliaries also support the health system's education grant fund. The Cape Coral Hospital Auxiliary has renovated and expanded the Cape Coral Hospital cafeteria and is presently renovating the gift shop and uniform store. It has purchased equipment ranging from scales and copiers to a body composition analyzer for the Wellness Center of Cape Coral and a glide scope for respiratory care. Our Cape Coral Hospital Auxiliary sewing group also creates 'cough pillows' for post-surgical patients and pediatric gowns for children getting much-needed medical care."
Donna also says that the Lee Memorial Auxiliary has helped provide equipment like patient lifts, zone phones for nurse communications, mobile shower chairs, cardiac defibrillators and a high-tech vein finder/viewer for chemotherapy. In addition to auxilians from Lee Memorial Hospital, the Lee Memorial Auxiliary also includes HealthPark Medical Center auxilians. Jill Palmer supports