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Newton Medical Center auxiliary celebrates 50 years of service
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The Newton Medical Center Auxiliary’s theme for 2010 is "volunteers are golden treasures." During its 50 years in existence, volunteers have logged more than half a million hours of service and have helped raise more than $2 million for hospital equipment.

Tuesday the Auxiliary held its monthly meeting as a 50th anniversary celebration. Anniversary Committee Chair Sharon Payne greeted guests and introduced the program.

"Today we will journey back through the last 50 years and see how we have grown and see the contributions we have made to Newton Medical Center over the years," Payne said.

She invited members to view enlarged photographs selected by the anniversary committee, which will be on display in the halls of the hospital. Payne also noted that the special project of the auxiliary that will commemorate the group’s silver anniversary will be to redecorate the hospital’s chapel. A rummage sale fundraiser has been planned from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 27 at Calvary Baptist Church.

NMC Director of Volunteer Services Martha Taylor presented a brief history of the hospital and auxiliary. In October 1954, Newton County Hospital opened with 36 beds and employed nine physicians and 22 other staff members.

"It was the citizens who wanted the hospital and it was the citizens who raised funds to match grants to build the hospital," Taylor said. "It was a hospital of and for the people."

Before the days of cell phones, Taylor said, nurses would often have to treat emergency patients if a doctor could not be reached. To alleviate some of the burden on the nurses, several local ladies began volunteering at the hospital by delivering patients’ meals.

In 1960, 30 women met and organized the first volunteer program with Louly Fowler as their president. Their first project was to raise funds for a meal cart to transport food to patients. The group raised $1,330.60 and served 1,463 hours in its first year.

During its first decade, the volunteer program implemented a Candy Striper program and established a nursing scholarship fund. Fundraisers over the next 25 years ranged from barbecues to fashion shows.

The first male volunteer joined the auxiliary in 1980 and today the auxiliary has 35 men serving.

The hospital underwent a major expansion in 1985 that included adding an emergency room, current hospital administrator Jim Weadick came on board and the volunteer services office was established. Taylor had come to work for the hospital as a public relations director, but after witnessing a volunteer push a patient in a wheelchair into an elevator but leave his IV pole behind, she asked Weadick to allow her to help train volunteers in basic hospital procedures.

Since its inception the auxiliary has helped open hospital gift shops and a resale store — The Cinderella Shop, implemented the First Steps Program, become a Partner in Education for East Newton Elementary School, opened the Hope Boutique for women undergoing cancer treatment, and has won numerous awards and held countless fundraisers such as golf tournaments and jewelry sales. Major projects the auxiliary have raised funds for are and electrophysiology lab, the Women’s Diagnostic Center, digital mammography equipment and the Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

"The foundation of the auxiliary is strong," Taylor said. "Strong people with a mission, goal and vision started our hospital and auxiliary, and we have continued to grow and build and expand."

Today the auxiliary boasts 220 members and has raised more than $2 million and logged 564,722 hours of volunteer service.

Peggy Gainer was a founding member of the auxiliary and its first treasurer. She served as president for one year and is the only founding member still active in the auxiliary today.

"After my church, my family and my friends, the auxiliary is closest to my heart. Its progress is like a dream come true with more and more wonderful volunteers and more and more great, enduring projects," Gainer said.

"There seems to be no limit on ways to serve and ways to help," she continued.

A special project for this year will be to raise funds so that every parent of a child treated by the new NICU will receive a CPR Anytime training kit. The kits cost $40 and contain an infant-sized dummy, procedure chart and 20-minute instructional DVD. Many parents who bring home a sick baby forget much of what nurses try to teach them at the hospital because of the stress they are under. These kits allow parents to refresh themselves in the life-saving method as well as train other caregivers such as grandparents or babysitters. The infant and adult kits are available in the Wishing Well Gift Shop in the main hospital lobby.

Director of Education Becky Beavers said that a person’s chances of surviving a cardiac event increase by 40 percent if someone performs CPR on them before paramedics arrive.

Hospital Administrator Jim Weadick concluded the program by thanking the members for their dedication.

"Newton Medical Center today is the beneficiary of your direct work," said Weadick addressing the crowd, "but truly the 92,000 residents of Newton County are the beneficiaries.

"You’ve given us something we can’t go out and buy and that is your free time," he continued. "We’ve got something very good going on for us and we’ve got to polish it each day to make sure it doesn’t lose that shine."

For more information about volunteer opportunities at Newton Medical Center, call Director of Volunteer Services Martha Taylor at (770) 385-4348. For more information about CPR Anytime Kits or to donate any dollar amount to the Give So Babies Can Live fund, call Director of Education Becky Beavers at (770)385-4348.