Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Lois E. Johnson
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Volunteers vital to hospital, nursing home


Lois E. Johnson

Mary Sturgeleski, a volunteer at the Augustana-Mercy Care Center, reads the newspaper with Helen, a resident.

Volunteer opportunities expanded when the new Mercy Hospital opened last year. One of the volunteer duties is as "way finders," people who greet people at the door and direct them to where they need to go.

"This hospital is so different than the old one," said Ernie Muller, one of the way finders, in a recent interview. "It's great to help people."

Ernie is the first male member of the auxiliary. Although the auxiliary has been open to male members in recent years, he just joined last year.

Ernie's wife, Jeanette, is also a member of the auxiliary, and volunteers in the gift shop and assists patients one day a month when they come for eye surgery.

"I've had cataract surgery myself, so I know what a difference it makes," she said. "After their surgeries, I take the patients in wheelchairs out to their cars.

"One time, I wheeled a gentleman, who had been legally blind, out to the car. As I took him to the parking lot he said he could see cars. He hadn't been able to see them before. That was exciting to his wife, and to me, too."

The auxiliary has been operating since September 1961, according to records. It was first formed for the hospital district but has evolved as the hospital has grown and since Augustana has taken over the operation of the nursing home.

"The traffic at the hospital has picked up," Jeanette said. "We used to have a tiny gift shop in the old hospital. There was barely room for one worker and a couple of customers. The new gift shop has more room for displays and more customers. And we have storage space and an office. We used to have to store merchandise for the gift shop in the basement."

Jeanette said she is also a member of the Mission Advancement Committee, a group of citizens that meets with the administration and staff.

"Our goal is to connect the hospital with the community," she said. "We are kind of a listening group for the administration and staff."

Jeanette is also a member of a group that raises funds to support the chaplain program at Augustana.

Jane Morgan is the volunteer coordinator for Mercy Hospital. She works out of an office in the gift shop.

"I recruit new volunteers, maintain the volunteers that we have and find placement for them," she said. "I am always looking for new volunteer opportunities for our 50 members of the auxiliary."

Betty Kruel is the volunteer coordinator at Augustana. She said they are looking for volunteers to help the residents of Augustana-Mercy, Kenwood Place and Oakview Assisted Living facilities with arts and crafts, music and entertainment, potters who can help residents make items out of clay, or people who like to tell stories and share their hobbies.

"Volunteers are a much needed and appreciated commodity," said Betty. "Give me a call if you are interested in setting out on a journey that will change your life."

The auxiliary also conducts fundraising campaigns.

One of the campaigns is Lights of Love. Funds raised are used for scholarships for students about to go for higher education in the medical field from four area schools: Moose Lake, Barnum, Willow River and Cromwell, Morgan explained.

Profits from the gift shop are donated to the auxiliary, and the auxiliary officers write a check to the hospital or Augustana for the purchase of equipment.

"We recently gave Mercy Hospital $2,000 for the purchase of directional signage to make it easier for people to get around in the hospital," Morgan said.

A Holiday Extravaganza is held early in the holiday season, where shoppers can find holiday gift items and products. The funds raised are combined with the gift shop profits for distribution.

"Everything is reasonably priced," said Morgan. "That's important to the community."

For more information about volunteer opportunities, call Jane at Mercy at (218) 485-5891 or Betty at Augustana at (218) 351-9414.

The first auxiliary meeting of the season will be held on Tuesday, September 6, at 3:30 p.m. in the board room of the hospital. Enter off of Kenwood Avenue at the Mercy Hospital entrance (former outpatient entrance) and turn right to the board room.


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