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The Hospital Auxiliary: The first and most progressive in the state in 1951

July 1, 2011

For Starkville Daily News

The Starkville Auxiliary of Felix Long Memorial Hospital began as an organization of dedicated women devoting their time and services to the hospital and community.  The Auxiliary was affiliated with the American Hospital Association and the Mississippi Hospital Association.
Long Hospital Auxiliary was founded in December 1948 when the hospital was opened as the second Hill-Barton institution in Mississippi.  A general meeting was called on December 8, 1950 at the county courthouse for the adoption of the constitution by the membership.  More than 200 ladies attended.
In October 1951, Mrs. B. W. Gaston and 26 members attended the first state convention in Jackson.  They were recognized as the first and most progressive Auxiliary in the State and were honored with a reception at the Governor’s mansion.  Mrs. Gaston was elected President of the Mississippi State Hospital Auxiliary.  She was then instrumental in the foundation of other auxiliaries within the state.
Auxiliary members function in many capacities in rendering charitable services to the hospital and its patients and to the community.
In the beginning the auxiliary consisted of four committees that included a flower committee which provided, maintained flowers, and potted plants for the entire hospital. 
Donations from the people of the county provided a large planter with growing plants for each patients room.  The flower committee visited the hospital twice a week to water and care for these plants.  This committee also provided cut flowers for patients who did not have relatives or friends to bring them a little sunshine for their rooms.
An Emergency Committee composed of four women for surgery, six women for general floor duty and four women for dietary and housekeeping duties were organized.  These women acclimated themselves to the hospital facilities and were taught what to do in case of an emergency.  The committee in cooperation with the medical staff, organized a plan and procedure to be followed in case of a disaster.  In such case, the Chief of the Medical Staff was completely in charge of all professional activities.  He assigned all patients to the various staff members, making assignments of Registered nurses and committee members to work directly with individual staff members. After the emergency was under control, the patients were assigned to the doctor of their choice.
The Spiritual Welfare Committee was composed of representatives of all faiths and denominations and was sponsored by the churches of Oktibbeha County.  Through the cooperation of one of the civic organizations and churches, radios were given to the hospital for use on Sunday to bring the Lord’s message to the patients.  Sunday School classes from the churches provided financial support and supervision and completed what they call a “prayer room.”  This room was provided as a convenience to friends and families of the patients and was available to those of all faiths at any time.  A beautiful Bible and other facilities were made available without cost to the hospital.
The Welfare Committee was composed of citizens of the county whose duties were to provide bandages and other supplies for the cancer society.  They also provided a facility which they called a “Loan Closet.”  This closet was located in the County Health Building and supervised by County Health personnel.  All supplies and equipment to be carried out into the homes was to be used free of charge by the people of the county who were in need of these supplies but whose condition did not necessitate them being hospitalized.  In this closet, the bandages, bed pans, emersion balms and various other equipment owned by the hospital was provided without cost.
The Hospital Auxiliary Social Committee provided parties and social fun times for personnel and members of the medical staff of the hospital.  They also made bandages, ice collar covers, baby garments and various other sewing for the hospital.  Most of the supplies used in this work were donated to the hospital by people of the county.
At this time, there were three high schools in the county: Starkville, Maben and Sturgis.  A nurse recruitment program was established second to none in Mississippi. The high school senior girls were given an opportunity to enter nursing education and if accepted the Auxiliary and the hospital provided $120 scholarships to each girl.  This program was sponsored by the Auxiliary and no girl was under obligation to the hospital upon completion of her nursing training.  The county had three girls in 1952 to take advantage of this program and seven girls taking advantage of the program in 1953.  Their goal was to eventually sponsor twelve girls each year in the program.  Two civic clubs accepted responsibility to sponsor any county girl who was not financially able to pay for her nursing education. 
One of the most pleasant sights to a patient in the Felix Long Hospital was to see the smile on the face of a pink and white clad Candy Striper.  This program was added in 1963.  The Candy Stripers , a national organization for girls in the 10th, 11th and 12 grades, started work at the Felix Long Memorial Hospital where they served as hostesses..  Twenty-three girls offered their services during the summer months.  The Auxiliary decided to introduce the program in order to give the girls a chance to use their spare time in a constructive manner.    The purpose of the Candy Striper program is to help the patients, to offer constructive work for young ladies of the community, and to interest the girls in nursing as a profession.  In 1970 there were 74 Candy Stripers and with the new hospital, it was felt they would need more girls.  The girls wore attractive red and white striped uniforms from where they derived the name, Candy Stripers.
The main duty of each Candy Striper is to be pleasant and to help in some small way to make patients at the hospital more comfortable.  Specific duties included taking the ice cart around and refilling ice water pitchers for the patients that were allowed ice water; delivering flowers and letters to the patients; answering and calling people to the lobby phone; and offering juice to the patients when making the morning and afternoon rounds with the magazine cart.  Fluffing a pillow is a simple process but it can add comfort to a patient and that is what Candy Stripers do.  Other duties included making silverware packets in the kitchen, preparing patients before meals; serving and picking up meal trays; keeping the outer lobby of the hospital tidy and answering room buzzers..
By helping around the hospital, the girls leave time for the aides and nurses to perform more clinical type duties.  Comfort is a necessity and the nurses can’t always take time to pour some water so they take over this duty and leave nurses free to do their work.  Two Candy Stripers were always on the hall with one at the desk in the lobby to help visitors find rooms and to assist the business office by running errands and answering the phone.
In the spring, the Candy Stripers add up their hours of duty and hold a formal Capping and Pinning Ceremony.  Girls who have worked for 50 or more hours are awarded a pin to wear on their uniforms.  If they have worked 100 hours or more they receive a cap.  The awards are presented by the head of the nursing staff in a formal ceremony that is a tradition in the nursing profession.
From 1950 to 1964 the Auxiliary landscaped and maintained the grounds of the hospital.
The Auxiliary workers are familiarly referred to as “Pink Ladies.”  They serve as receptionists to visitors, answer telephones, and deliver mail, messages and gifts to patients  They push wheelchairs, they deliver  x-ray patients to and from their rooms and the laboratory.  They assist the nurses with non-medical comforts.  On occasion they make sunshine items for the patients and each Christmas they decorate the hospital and prepare and preside at a staff hospital party.
Members of the hospital auxiliary cooperate with other volunteer groups in providing services for the community such as the 1964 Sabine polio program and the frequent Blood Mobile visits.  Another project in 1963 saw the collection of over 1,400 pints of blood donated for soldiers in Vietnam.  Some 300 to 400 students were turned away when workers ran out of bottles and time.  The lines extended through the MSU Union lounge  of the ballroom and several hundred were lined up outside on the lawn.
The medical library, begun in 1951, realized great financial effort through the efforts of the auxiliary.  The library was dedicated to Cadet James W. Barton, son of Mr. and Mrs. A. L. Goodman, Sr.
The auxiliary put forth a tremendous drive to raise funds for the new Oktibbeha County Hospital.  The auxiliary raised over $41,000 for equipment room furnishings for the hospital.  The money was raised through raffles, card parties, donations and personal endeavors on the part of each member of the auxiliary. 
Ed Montgomery, hospital administrator, repeatedly expressed his and the communities’ gratitude for the necessary work that auxiliary volunteers do.
Meetings are held and workshop sessions are set up for hospital needs.  For each one hundred hours of volunteer service, members receive a gold pin from American Hospital Association.
Changes in rules and regulations along with modern conveniences have brought about many changes since the beginning, but the Hospital Auxiliary continues to be the volunteer arm of the hospital.  Upon entering the new Oktibbeha County Hospital Regional Medical Center, there is still a Hospital Auxiliary volunteer to assist you, others throughout the hospital offering assistance, and Candy Stripers still avail themselves to meet patient needs.  Auxiliary members are dedicated volunteers with a mission to support medical excellence and are commended for the work they generously perform.
Leota Cardwell began working as a volunteer with the Oktibbeha County Hospital auxiliary in 1989.  She has served as program chairman and president of the auxiliary.  Her duties at the hospital have included workiing at the desk, patient representative and for eleven years has been responsible for the records of fellow  volunteers,  She presents the earned pins at the annual luncheon in May each year.  She has been named a Volunteer of the Year.
Joe Cardwell began working as a volunteer with the Oktibbeha County Hospital auxiliary in 1990.  He worked at the desk and was a patient representative.  He enjoyed going into the patient rooms and visiting with them.  His first question was to inquire if they had any praises or complaints.  His second question was “ have you ever milked a cow?’  He enjoyed talking to them about dairying.  Most of the older patients could answer in the affirmative to the second question.  He often would talk to them about the cheesemaking at Mississippi State University where he served for 39 years as the professor of the cheese courses.  He told them he had taught hundreds of students how to make the famous Edam cheese at the university.

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