Auxiliary to mark 50th anniversary

By Virginia "Mike" Barton

How many times have we heard, "Never underestimate the power of a woman"? Believe it or not, there are those who scoff at this statement, but they don't know some of the women of this area. In Seaford and Laurel and the communities surrounding the two towns, members of the Nanticoke Health Services (formerly Nanticoke Memorial Hospital) know the "power of being a woman." Fifty years ago, on Sept. 15, 1951, the auxiliary that would serve the hospital that was under construction on the former LeCates Farm on Middleford Road in Seaford was organized by a group of area women. Construction on the hospital began on July 4, 1950, after a group of foresighted men saw the great need for a community hospital. Women of the area became active and the first meeting open to the public for those interested in joining the auxiliary as volunteers brought out a record crowd to the Seaford Fire Hall. In short order, the auxiliary was formed and the volunteers literally swung into action. Fannie Callaway was elected president. The hospital officially opened its doors to patients on Jan. 28, 1952, but by that time the auxiliary had already held a card and bingo party at the fire hall, a food drive to stock the shelves of the food storage room, purchased linens, electric fans and an oxygen tent, and air conditioned the operating and delivery rooms!

The auxiliary also had scrubbed down beds and other furnishings of patient rooms, made countless belly bands, receiving blankets and baby bonnets, and served on membership committees: publicity, ways and means, food, service, reading material, program and nurses aides. In May 1952 the first dance was an overwhelming success. An automobile was raffled off for this social event of the season, with combined profits of $5,921.50. The annual winter dance held continues this tradition. Throughout the 50 years of the auxiliary, service hours have accumulated as area women have held a May Mart on the lawn of the Layton Theatre, mended countless thousands of pieces of linen, were active in the sewing committees, held fashion shows, puppet shows, made puppets to give to young patients, and served in the following ways: baby photo service, country auction, operation of candy machines, gift and snack shop, baby formula committee, Christmas decorations throughout the hospital, annual horse show, presentation of musical productions including "Sound of Music," flower booth, the kiosk in the lobby of the current building, information desk, mailroom, surgical waiting room, provided television sets at both the hospital and Lofland LifeCare.

The first auxiliary officers were Mrs. Callaway of Seaford; Mrs. Milton Yerkes of Laurel, vice president; Mrs. Horace White of Bridgeville, second vice president; Mrs. J. E. Dutton of Seaford, third vice president; Mrs. Martin Uhler of Greenwood, recording secretary; Mrs. Richard Gundry of Blades, corresponding secretary; Clara Smith of Reliance, treasurer; and Mrs. William Davies of Bethel, assistant treasurer. In addition to thousands of service hours, the auxiliary members have raised more than $1,143,760 for use within the hospital. The winter dance, kiosk, fashion show and television service, along with the annual auction/dinner, continue to produce revenue and provide many needed pieces of equipment and services. On Wednesday, Sept. 12, at 11 a.m., members, past presidents, auxiliary officers, hospital board members and special guests will gather at the Seaford Golf and Country Club to celebrate the golden anniversary of the auxiliary. Anniversary committee members are Dot Dixon, Lorraine Miller, Jean Baldwin and Missy Reitzke. Dr. John C. Rawlins, who joined the Nanticoke staff five months after it began operation, will be guest speaker.

Current officers are Suzanne Smith, president; Pat Olekszyk, first vice president; Joyce Mackler, second vice president; Rene Morris, recording secretary; Eleanor Warrington, treasurer; Lois Ewing, assistant treasurer; gift shop co"chairwomen, Dot Dixon and Sallie Higgins; Eleanor Bennett, gift shop treasurer; Don Ewing, TV service chairman; and Nancy Cook, immediate past president. Membership in the auxiliary now includes "a few good men." The late Charles Lowe was the first chairman of the TV service. Current male members are Don Ewing, Frank Kugler and David Ralph. While the male members are primarily involved with the TV service, female auxiliary members build up service hours serving in the kiosk, gifts, cards, balloons, snack machine, doctors' recognition day, as historian, the information desk, membership, nominating committee, by-laws committee, publicity, surgical waiting room and in many other areas of the hospital. One thing sure: Members in 2001 continue with the same dedication as did those women of 50 years ago who organized the group. Editor's Note: Barton is chairwoman of the auxiliary anniversary committee and is auxiliary corresponding secretary.

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