Women feted for volunteer work

The Jefferson Memorial Hospital Auxiliary honored three of its charter members Monday.

The Jefferson Memorial Hospital Auxiliary honored three of its charter members Monday.

December 17, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

RANSON, W.Va. - Years ago when bed pans had to be emptied, torn sheets had to be repaired or money needed to be raised to buy medical equipment at Jefferson Memorial Hospital, there was always a band of women eager to do the work.

And they did it for free.

With their own sewing machines located in a room at the hospital, the women repaired sheets and patient gowns when they were torn.

Before there were hospital gift shops, the women wheeled carts around to patients' rooms to offer toiletries and other personal items.


They gave patients and staff treats on Christmas eve, created dolls for children at the hospital and made beds.

"We did everything a nurse would do," said one of the women, Burla Tenney.

Tenney, Sara Humston and Nancy Morgan were honored at the hospital Monday afternoon for their 35 years of volunteer service to the Jefferson Memorial Auxiliary.

The three women were founding members of the auxiliary and still serve today.

People still volunteer for the hospital's auxiliary, but they usually do not serve as long as members used to, the three women said.

The women attribute the trend to a busier pace these days.

"There wasn't as much going then," said Tenney, who will turn 92 on Thursday.

At the time the women started the auxiliary, the hospital was known as Charles Town General Hospital and it was on Congress Street in Charles Town.

When equipment was needed for the facility, the auxiliary - some 60 women strong - went to work.

Sometimes they sold jewelry to raise money for the equipment. Other times they sold spatulas, Tenney said.

"I think every house in Jefferson County got a spatula we sold," Tenney said.

On Christmas Eve, auxiliary members went through the hospital with their "traveling punch bowl," offering cookies and drinks to patients and staff members who had to work at the hospital on that day. Tenney remembers that other auxiliary members used old socks to craft dolls and give them to children.

John Sherwood, the hospital's chief operating officer, said Monday he has been to many functions honoring efforts people have made on behalf of hospitals. But Sherwood said he has never seen a situation in which a group of women have helped an institution for more than a quarter of a century.

Many of the tasks the auxiliary used to carry out are no longer needed at the hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Pamela Holstein-Wallace. For example, many of the gowns and other accessories for patients that the women used to repair are made out of paper, Holstein-Wallace said.

"Now everything is disposable. They don't have to worry about those types of things," Holstein-Wallace said.

Today, auxiliary members take on chores such as helping patients get discharged from the hospital, running items to the lab and operating the gift shop, Holstein-Wallace said.

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