The Ashland Community Hospital's move to its current location in 1961 allowed for a great expansion of services and accommodations which in turn led to a greater need for caring and helpful workers.

To this end, the original CEO of the hospital, Bob Flynn, asked Maggie Skerry to organize what was, and still is, a standard feature of most successful hospitals &

an auxiliary.

The English word auxiliary is based on the Latin "auxilia," meaning "help," and generally refers to a secondary force whose job it is to provide assistance and support to the primary force, especially in the military.

While the "pink ladies" may not initially appear very soldier-like with their smiling faces and pink smocks, they have remained a dedicated, steadfast presence since the group's foundation.

Skerry, wife of former City Attorney Harry Skerry, remembers being overwhelmed by the support of the community when 150 volunteers attended their very first meeting. Skerry's neighbor, Mrs. Paul, hand sewed the 150 pink uniforms for Ashland's first auxiliary members.

As Doris Lundhall explains, these volunteers are an integral part of the hospital's services.

"Our primary purpose is to be of service to the hospital and to patients," says Lundhall, current president of the auxiliary's board. "We work at the registration desk, same-day surgery, there are a group of people who make crafts such as tray favors and the hats that are given to newborns &

we try to be helpful in any way that we can."

Skerry says that the auxiliary's goal is to do any service that the patient requires beyond the duties performed by doctors and nurses.

The auxiliary's services are not limited to patients of the hospital; they also provide free blood pressure clinics every Tuesday and take groups of school children on tours of the hospital to assuage any fears they may have.

"They get to take a tour of the facilities and find out how things work," says Lundhall. "We show them the beds and blood pressure monitors and some of the machines and we have them try out wheelchairs and walkers, then we let them dress up like surgeons. They have a lot of fun."

The hospital's gift shop is run by auxilians and provides the group with most of its funds, but they also have sales on specific items such as scrubs, jewelry or leather to benefit the hospital. In 2006 the auxiliary presented the hospital with $13,500.

In 2006, auxiliary volunteers collectively worked 15,500 hours; the equivalent of seven full-time employees. Even if those hypothetical employees were paid the minimum wage, the auxiliary would still save the hospital more than $120,000 each year.

Each volunteer's hours are tabulated and after each person has worked for a certain amount of time they are awarded a commemorative pin. Of their 40 current volunteers, most have given more than 5,000 hours. Iris Curnow has volunteered almost 10,000 hours throughout her time as a member.

Maggie Skerry says that creating and volunteering for the auxiliary is some of the most important work that she has done in her career of giving, which includes being heavily involved with SOU and the Tudor Guild.

"To be able to help patients be a little more comfortable, a little happier &

that leads to a great deal of satisfaction," she says.

There are always opportunities for new members and Lundhall is quick to point out that, while most volunteers are "pink ladies," membership is not limited to females. For more information contact the Ashland Hospital Auxiliary office at 201-4027.