Happy helpers

The Saint Francis Hospital Auxiliary keeps facility in the pink.



Saint Francis Auxiliary volunteers Betty Thompson, Carleen Frazier and Mary Tirey.

Saint Francis hospital, in the big, pink building on the corner of East 61st Street and South Yale Avenue, turned 50 last October — a milestone the volunteers of the Saint Francis Auxiliary helped the institution reach.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary, the volunteers donned their pink shirts (burgundy for men) and gathered at the Bishop Kelley High School football field. There, they formed a giant number 50 for an aerial photo.

Natalie and W.K. Warren opened Saint Francis Hospital Oct. 1, 1960, with 180 volunteers and seven departments, resulting in the first auxiliary in the nation ready to work the day the hospital opened.

Fifty years later, the auxiliary includes 450 adult volunteers; 100 students, who work during the summer; and 55 departments.

“The importance of the volunteers is vital,” says Mary Jane Evans, Saint Francis’ director of volunteer services. “Many areas, such as the information desks, surgery waiting rooms and gift shops, are completely run by volunteers, so we would not have those services without them.”

The volunteers’ responsibilities depend on where in the hospital they are placed.

“Department-specific training is different based upon the unit,” Evans says. “For example, the training for the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) involves a two-hour orientation with the nurse who supervises the cuddlers (volunteers who hold and soothe the babies) and 12 hours of observation/training with another cuddler.”

Volunteer Betty Verret joined the auxiliary in 1969 when her late husband, Lloyd Verret, became CEO of Saint Francis; he served from 1969-1994.

“It’s a great place to work,” she says. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here all these years.”

Verret works in the gift shop, which donates its profits to Saint Francis, with donations totaling more than $8 million since 1960.

“We’re a nonprofit,” says Terry Cannon, auxiliary board president and volunteer. “We’re about giving away money to wherever there is a need (within the health system).”

The auxiliary has donated $1,181,000 to The Children’s Hospital at Saint Francis since it opened in 2008, including a recently purchased NICU ambulance, which will arrive in the spring.

Auxiliary volunteer Terry Underwood has given nearly 45 years of service in the NICU and outpatient surgery. She chose to volunteer at Saint Francis in 1967 because the hospital was new.

“I wanted to see what it was all about,” she says. “I enjoyed Mr. and Mrs. Warren when they were alive. They gave out prayer books to the patients and Mrs. Warren gave me one. She was a wonderful person.”

Those interested in volunteering must fill out an application, pass a background check and health screening and commit to working for one year and a minimum of 50 hours.

For more information, call 918-494-1150 or visit www.saintfrancis.com.

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