Ivinson Auxiliary Celebrates 70 Years of Service
This March, Ivinson Memorial Hospital’s Auxiliary celebrates its 70th Anniversary.
Sharleen Castle, Volunteer Coordinator and Gift Shop Manager at Ivinson, recounts the history that brought Ivinson’s Auxiliary to the 70 year mark:
“Talk, which had been going on for some time, finally culminated when 28 local women met at Ivinson Hospital on March 1, 1951.”
The ladies were interested in forming a hospital auxiliary. Mrs. Adam Docktor, Mrs. Bristol and Mrs. Cady were appointed to draw up a constitution and bylaws. These were accepted at a meeting on March 8, 1951 and the future of the Ivinson Memorial Hospital Auxiliary began. During the first year, 1,908 hours were compiled by Auxilians.
Since that time, volunteering has changed many times to meet the needs of the hospital. During the 2020 – 2021 Covid-19 pandemic, volunteers were unable to serve for almost four months. Some were able to come back with limited opportunities. In the first quarter of 2021, many department staff are still missing the help they previously received and are especially missing the people with whom they had become friends. Student volunteers have stepped in to help in new ways and are excited to become a part of this worthy and historic organization.
The Ivinson Auxiliary has donated over 320,000 hours since its organization in 1951 and over $475,000 since 1973. Auxiliary members have also made contributions to the Family Care unit and Emergency departments, using their creativity to provide solutions for challenges. The members are looking forward to the next 70 years with optimism and courage to help Ivinson Memorial Hospital provide the best care possible for our community members
On any given Friday morning, Ivinson staff have come to know and love Jewel Caldwell’s presence in the Pinecone Gift Shop. Volunteering with Ivinson since the late 80s, Jewel is Ivinson Auxiliary’s longest standing volunteer, having served over 35 years.
“It’s long time to be in one place,” Jewel said. In her time, Jewel has lent a hand in various areas of the hospital and will often lend her crafting skills to various departments.
“I did work back in the day when they used volunteers to deliver meds to the different nurses’ stations,” Jewel said. “I have made baby hats. I’ve made hats and shawls for patients in the Cancer Center. My project right now is making ice bag covers for the ER.” Jewel estimates she’s made over 2,500 hand crafted projects for patients over the years. “It is just something I like to do.”
Jewel has been volunteering in the Laramie community since her husband’s work with the railroad brought them to Laramie in 1979. “I feel volunteering is a way to connect with the community. As a stay-at-home wife, it has been a way to interact with others that wasn’t available otherwise.”
Jewel started volunteering at Ivinson as a substitute volunteer, filling in where she was needed when her and her husband’s travel schedule allowed. Following his retirement, Jewel began dedicating every Friday morning to the Pinecone Gift Shop.
“I enjoy working in this type of work. Before I was married, I worked in a department store and I learned about pricing and merchandise and setting up displays and this is something I enjoy,” Jewel said of her little nook on the first floor.
When she isn’t volunteering, Jewel and her husband, Jim, fill their time with their growing family of grandchildren, many of whom remain local. As frequent users of inpatient and outpatient services at Ivinson, Jewel finds comfort in the familiarity she has built with staff.
“It’s been a really pleasant place to work. I have enjoyed all the people and the employees,” she said. “We are in and out of the hospital ourselves at our age, so it’s nice knowing when you come in and people say they know you. We are never treated like strangers and I enjoy that part.”
Leroy Vigil came to Ivinson in November of 2019, for him, it was a coming home experience.
“I was born here in 1945. I lived in California for 56 years and then I decided to come home.” Leroy had spent 42 years working for the railroad in Los Angeles. In his retirement, Leroy has dedicated much of his time to his church. He had opened his own ministry and made visits to California’s incarcerated populations. After so many hours spent on the road and sitting in traffic, Leroy was seeking a slower pace. That was when he and his wife made the move to Wyoming.
“I did a lot of volunteer work in California, I did meals on wheels,” Leroy said. With all his extra time, he knew he needed to find a cause to invest himself to. “I enjoy being around people and volunteering and instead of sitting around the house, why not volunteer?”
Leroy had been looking into local volunteer opportunities when an appointment with a specialty doctor took him and his wife to Fort Collins, Colorado. There, they encountered a gentleman that volunteered greeting and directing patients visiting the facility. It was that interaction that piqued his interest in volunteering at Ivinson.
“It looked like a good way to pass the day,” Leroy said. “I thought it would also be a way that maybe I could run into some people that I knew from my youth.”
From Monday through Friday, Leroy greets patients at Ivinson’s East Patient Entrance, taking temperatures and helping direct patients to where they need to go.
“I enjoy being around people and I enjoy being helpful,” he said of the assistance he is able to provide those entering the building. “I’ve never been around a hospital that much, I’ve been pretty healthy. This hospital is a lot different than the one I knew in Laramie, I was born in the old hospital and this is really a nice hospital. Not only that, but the people are so friendly and nice.”
Leroy remains an active member of his church and enjoys taking drives to show his wife the best that Wyoming has to offer. Despite her California roots, she has become accustomed to the cold winters and is happy to call Wyoming home.
“I enjoy being retired and I enjoy volunteering,” Leroy said. “I enjoy being able to do something for others, I’m glad to be here.”
For Carolyn Hurwitz, volunteering at Ivinson holds a personal connection, but it wasn’t until she began the process that she realized how close that connection would be.
If she had to guess, Carolyn would say she joined Ivinson Auxiliary in 2005 after an empty nest and a part-time schedule left her with time to give.
While visiting Ivinson for her screening mammogram, Carolyn was greeted and comforted by a longtime waiting room volunteer. “When I had my mammogram she was always lovely,” Carolyn recalled. It was her kindness and comfort that prompted her to look into Ivinson’s Auxiliary. Since then, Carolyn has been working as a volunteer in the mammography department.
“When I started, they had a little handbook with all of the rules and regulations and a brief history of Ivinson’s Auxiliary,” Carolyn explained. “In the brief history it said the Auxiliary was started in 1951, which was the year that I was born, and one of the original ladies was my grandmother. I had no idea and I thought, isn’t that kind of serendipitous. My grandmother, I knew she was civic minded and volunteered in different local organizations but I did not know she had anything to do with the Auxiliary until I volunteered.”
Despite not having the presence of her late grandmother to share the moment with, Carolyn has found her time at Ivinson fulfilling in many other ways.
“It is still very rewarding and almost as if it was meant to be,” Carolyn said. “I have met some of the most wonderful ladies of all ages. One gal I met ended up being a very close friend of mine for years and years. We started off just chit chatting back and forth and ended up in this wonderful long-lasting friendship.”
For Carolyn, the best part about her volunteer experience is the reassurance she is able to bring to others.
“You don’t do it for the gratification or the reward but it’s nice that such a simple thing can really make people feel good and that’s what is nice about it,” she said. “To sit down and talk to them and allay some of their trepidation and then as you walk them out they turn to you and say, ‘thank you it was so wonderful to have you there. I was so nervous and you made me feel better.’ You can’t ask for anything more than that. Not that you are asking for anything anyways but to have that just come forth is really nice.”
Auxiliary President, Rimvyda “Rim” Valiukenas, has been serving as a volunteer for two years. A long way from her Chicago roots, Rim has called Laramie home for the last 44 years and finds satisfaction in volunteering at Ivinson.
“I have been a longtime customer of the gift shop,” she said. “I always came in from the public and I always talked about that when I retired from the University of Wyoming, which I finally did after 34 years, that I would come and volunteer at the gift shop.”
In her retirement, Rim lends a hand in watching her grandsons but reserves her Mondays and Fridays to volunteering in the Pinecone Gift Shop. For Rim, it’s the people that keep her volunteering.
“I enjoy making the store nice,” she said. “A lot of the staff come in on their breaks and they may be having a stressful day, so we try to make it a nice place to go to take their mind off the stressful things.”
Staff are not only customers she is able to make a difference to, but the patients and their loved ones as well.
“I had a young man come in and his mom was on extended care. She needed some thank you cards,” Rim recalled of one instance that she holds close to her heart. “We started talking and it turns out his mother was dying. She wanted thank you cards for the doctors and nurses that took care of her and a very special one, it was for her husband, for their life together.”
Being able to make a difference in a small way, is why Rim continues to volunteer.
“You don’t think of that in a hospital gift shop,” she said of the support she is able to bring others. “But sometimes that’s what you do. That makes me feel good.”
Weather it is putting together flower arrangements for patients on PACU or packaging gifts for the little bundles of joy on the Family Care Unit, Rim finds every day an opportunity and is proud to be part of Auxiliary.
“I was always impressed with what the Auxiliary did over the years, their donations and donating essential items to departments,” she said. “AARP says that volunteering keeps you young, and it’s good for people. I think getting out, it gives you a sense of purpose. You feel like you achieve something,” Rim said of the volunteer experience. “I admire the young people that jump in and volunteer. There’s always somebody that could use some help. Volunteering here, it’s nice to know that you can help someone and I just love doing it.”
If you are interested in any of the various volunteer opportunities at Ivinson or becoming involved with Ivinson’s Auxiliary, visit https://www.ivinsonhospital.org/volunteers to learn how you can make a difference.