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Cowichan Hospital Auxiliary celebrating 90 years

In 90 years, 1932-2022, the Auxiliary to the Cowichan District Hospital has been a huge force
The Auxiliary to the Cowichan District Hospital is celebrating turning 90 this year. (Bruce Wilkinson photo)

It began when Mrs. Maitland-Dougal came to Cowichan in 1887.

In the 90 years in between, 1932 to 2022, the Auxiliary to the Cowichan District Hospital has been a huge force in providing Cowichan’s hospital with the things it needs, and comfort for patients.

Maitland-Dougal was a founding member of King’s Daughters’ Hospital where Cairnsmore Place now stands in Duncan. She then organized the Women’s Society and had the first official meeting April 25, 1932. They became known as the Women’s Auxiliary and are now called the Auxiliary to the Cowichan District Hospital and welcome men.

The annual bazaar started in December, 1932 and ran until 2009. At that time, forward looking women with a desire for a different future took the giant step to rent space and open a thrift store. This took courage, dedication and determination, as well as personal funds for start-up costs to open HATS at 79 Station St. They also had the foresight to save monthly to own their own premises. This year, in the midst of a pandemic, the auxiliary initiated an investigation to meet this goal within the near future.

There are currently 176 volunteers who exceeded 36,000 volunteer hours in 2021. There is a constant need for more members. But why do volunteers work so hard? Reasons vary, but mostly it’s wanting to contribute to a very worthy cause share your life with your community and make lifelong friendships.

Looking back 90 years, it is hard to comprehend the obstacles faced and overcome, and the depth of service provided to the health care system. Through the years their work supported many patient services such as mending linens, library service, flower care, tea and visiting, tray favors, baby pictures and many others.

The auxiliary currently supports knitted tuques for all newborns, Cairnsmore Place events and the Stop and Go Store, baby layettes (for patients with no family available), the Santa project, surgical sponges, bursaries for graduating students going into the medical field, the needlers, whose beautiful knitting sells at the hospital gift shop and thrift store, and internet for patients and public.

And above all, the operation of the hospital gift shop and the thrift store downtown, which raises most of the funds, which have been very substantial. In addition to meeting program needs and donations to numerous community groups, in the last five years, the total donated to Cowichan District Hospital and Cairnsmore was $580,000.

Looking back, members have had laughs and tears, hard times, personal challenges and accomplishments. Through it all, their devotion to helping to provide care and comfort to our valley hospitals has kept them motivated.

The community has played a large part in supporting the auxiliary, from the many patient care and comfort services and annual bazaar, to a currently increasing focus on fundraising. With community support, the auxiliary looks forward to providing funds for equipment at the new hospital as they did for Hospice, having an expanded gift shop in the new hospital, and to taking ownership of their own premises.