Linda Scott, left, of Mill Village, was the lucky winner of the rug recently raffled off in support of the Colchester Hospital Auxiliary. Presenting her with the prize is Sheila Rankin, who volunteers in the auxiliary’s gift shop. Submitted photo

TRURO – You may not always see the work they’re doing, but members and volunteers with the Colchester Hospital Auxiliary make up about two-thirds of the volunteer hours in the northern region.

Looking at statistics from 2016/17, 55 auxiliary members and 47 non-members in Colchester accumulated 63,208 hours of volunteering, with volunteers of the Nova Scotia Association of Health Auxiliaries adding in 1,456.

In the northern region, which also includes auxiliaries with Lillian Fraser Memorial in Tatamagouche, Aberdeen in New Glasgow, Cumberland Regional in Amherst, All Saints in Springhill, and North Cumberland in Pugwash, the second highest total volunteer hours came from those in Pugwash at 10,278 hours.

Cumberland is the only auxiliary with more members than Colchester in the northern region, and only surpasses Colchester by seven members. Their non-member volunteers in Amherst, however, come in around 150.

Many residents in the Truro area, and those who visit the Colchester East Hants Health Centre, have probably visited either the coffee or gift shops, both of which the auxiliary operates. Not all auxiliaries in the province have both, and some auxiliaries don’t have either shop to bring in funding.

Operating the two shops is one reason why the volunteer hours in Colchester are so high, said vice-president Frank Henderson.

“Both operate seven days a week, and are only closed one day per year – on Christmas,” he said. “It takes that many volunteers to operate those from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. every day. And the other fundraisers on top of that, that takes more hours.”

Plus, he said, the volunteers are “sincere, good-hearted people” who do what they can to help patients and visitors.

Erma Henderson, the vice-president of the provincial auxiliary, isn’t surprised to see Colchester’s volunteer hours at the level they’re at.

“It’s an important cause and they want to make a difference,” she said. “They know the people that come through the shops are visiting sick family members, and they enjoy the interaction with them. It’s a special time for them.”

Both the gift and coffee stores in the Colchester East Hants Health Centre are fully operational, and fully self-sufficient with managers and volunteers doing the buying, administration and accounting, as well as anything else associated with the operation of the stores anywhere.

In Colchester, the majority of the auxiliary’s income for 2016 came from the coffee shop. Along with the shops, the auxiliary raises money through special events, donations or bequests, or other means.

For 2016, Colchester Hospital Auxiliary saw almost $100,000 in income, the highest of the auxiliaries in the northern region (followed by Aberdeen).

Colchester disbursed $8,995 in 2016, with another $300,000 pledged, however not paid within that year. There could be a number of reasons why the disbursement is low compared to that year’s income – the hospital didn’t request as much, or even the items ordered by the hospital and committed by the auxiliary had not yet been received.

When looking at disbursements and amounts pledged for the 2016 year, the second highest number was Cumberland, with $79,730 paid.

Some of the recent purchases at the Colchester East Hants Health Centre include 11 defibrillators (nine of which were installed throughout the hospital). Pulmonary function equipment that was purchased has brought wait times down to about two to three months, from a six-month wait.

Along with equipment, the auxiliary often puts care packages together – for example for those coming into emergency, and colouring packages for children – and also hands out bursaries each year for students and nurses or staff to continue their education.

Henderson said the rapport the auxiliary has with the hospital makes the volunteering worthwhile.

“We’re made to feel like part of the hospital team. This special relationship makes things work.”

While their numbers are strong, the Colchester Hospital Auxiliary is always looking to do more to help the hospital and its users, and hopes more people will come on board to lend a hand. They gained a number of new volunteers this past year that they’re appreciative of, however will miss the three they also lost.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the Colchester Hospital Auxiliary, visit either shop on the main floor of the health centre.

The Colchester Hospital Auxiliary would like to thank Community Credit Union, Patterson Law and Colchester Community Funeral Home for sponsoring this column, which will appear every second month in Hub Now in 2018 beginning in February.