The origins of our Auxiliary date back to the Scattered Circle (organized in the 1890's ), a chapter of the International Order of the Kings’ Daughters spearheaded by Mrs. F Maitland-Dougal. Even though she died in 1904, others in the community recognized the value of a medical facility and continued supporting her idea with such enthusiasm that a 6 bed hospital was opened in April 1911. Expansion became necessary within a year.
The Scattered Circle women made curtains and bed linens, cleaned floors and windows , and mended linens in the early years. By 1931 the site consisted of 60 beds and a nurse’s residence, but the workload was too much for the volunteers and a Cowichan District Hospital Association took control of the operation. Without missing a beat, the volunteers formed the Auxiliary and set about producing preserves for the hospital pantry and fundraising in new ways, including tag days and raffles, bridge tournaments, and bazaars. Members with vehicles even drove patients home from their hospital treatments.
The first bazaar netted $431, and the peak of bazaar results was around $19,000 by 2008. The Auxiliary cooperated and coordinated with other service organizations in the Cowichan Valley on many support activities, and invited such organizations to participate in bazaars (for a portion of their proceeds). During their lifespan, bazaars have included raffles and silent auctions, knitwear, garden, home cooking, jams and jellies, nearly-new, crafts, cookies, carvery (cut meats), toys and Sikh food stalls, as well as fashion shows, tea luncheons and pumpkin carving.
Until 1952, there was only one recognized Auxiliary, but in that year, the Auxiliary members recognized that younger and working women could only contribute to activities in the evenings, so the Junior Women’s Auxiliary was formed, and the original organization became known as the Senior Auxiliary. Junior Aux members volunteered at blood donor clinics and in the Gift Shop at the original hospital site, and even carried on operations at a thrift store that both auxiliaries jointly started in 1960. The auxiliaries eventually amalgamated in 2002.
When the current Cowichan District Hospital was built, the Auxiliary was able to procure meeting/records/storage/warehouse and kitchen space. Baking could be done within the hospital—generating wonderful aromas that guaranteed sales to staff. Space pressures put an end to most of that in 2018.
With the transfer of hospital services to the new CDH building in 1967, the old hospital site was reassigned to be the location of a long-term care residential facility, and construction on Cairnsmore Place was finished in 1973. The Auxiliary continued to provide some services at this location, although most of the activity took place at CDH.
For decades, the Gift Shop and Bazaar were the two main fund-raising activities. The Gift Shop made separate donations totalling $92,000 to the hospital during the years 1968-82. When HATS was opened in 2009, it became both the best fund-raising operation and the greatest volunteering demand, so bazaars were phased out in 2011. In addition to meeting program needs and donations to numerous community health services, in the five years 2018-2022 the total donated to Cowichan District Hospital, Cairnsmore Place and Cowichan Hospice was $548,000.
The Auxiliary has supported medical services in the community: purchasing CADD pumps, Roho low pressure cushions, and medical refrigerators. Our annual budget includes allowances for Arctic Sun pads if replenishment is required, contributing to hospital and Hospice WIFI costs, funding and organizing baby toques/ layettes/grooming kits/surgical sponges, providing a stipend for Cairnsmore Place social activities, organizing the Santa Project, and offering student bursaries.
Over the years our mission of “care and comfort” has been modified as medical procedures and services changed, as disease control issues affected access (such as the Covid pandemic), as space crunches limit our options. Services once deemed acceptable are dwindling or gone: baby photographs, library service (and then magazine cart), play room, fresh flowers, tea and visiting, staff appreciation day, tray favours and candy stripers.
We still operate the Gift Shop and we still provide hundreds of baby toques so that each newborn receives at least one. Currently, our efforts are directed mainly toward fund-raising to provide resources to purchase “care and comfort” items and equipment that advances care beyond what is achievable within current budgets or with the existing equipment inventory.
2022 was our 90th year. Check out how the Auxiliary has grown and served the community since 1932.