Volunteers Essential To Regional Medical Center

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Volunteers are vital to the quality of life in any community. Payson is no different. The legacy of volunteer services is etched all around town.

They built the library at Julia Randall Elementary School in the 1980s. More recently, they made the new Payson Public Library a reality and created the Veterans Memorial at Green Valley Park.

The men and women in the local service clubs and organizations have all contributed hundreds of untold hours and a multitude of talents and skills, along with thousands of dollars to make a difference in Payson and the Rim country.

One of Payson's longest standing volunteer groups and one that helped bring quality health care to the community is the Hospital Auxiliary, better known as the Pink Ladies and Men in Maroon, according to Judy Baker, director of the Mogollon Health Alliance under which the auxiliary now operates.

These folks will be honored next week by PRMC and the Mogollon Health Association with an afternoon at the movies. One of the auditoriums at the Sawmill Theaters has been rented and the volunteers will be treated to a movie and refreshments, Baker said.

"Annually we also give the auxiliary a luncheon, the first Tuesday in May, to say thank you," Baker said. This year the luncheon, catered by the hospital, will be at the parish hall of St. Philip's Catholic Church.

A group of the Pink Ladies recently talked to the Roundup about their volunteer work.

Current Auxiliary President Bertha Riggs, who has been with the group for five years, accompanied by seven of her fellow volunteers, shared some of their stories. The group included Helen Bates, who has been a Pink Lady since 1979; Patricia Graser, who has devoted 7,000 hours of service since 1981; Rosemary Fergen and Frances Muggli, who joined together 14 years ago; Jean Wight who will celebrate 20 years with the auxiliary in June; and Pat Johnson, a Pink Lady for 8 years.

The auxiliary was formed by the Junior Women's Club that had worked for years to help get a clinic constructed and equipped and bring a doctor to town. The Payson Clinic opened Dec. 23, 1956. Dr. Dave Gilbert became the clinic's full-time physician in 1957, according to the auxiliary history, created by Bates and published for its 25th anniversary.

The Pink Ladies formed in 1960 when members of the Junior Women's Club decided the new clinic could be better served by starting a ladies auxiliary. The group chose pale pink uniforms with caps dyed to match, and so they became known as the Pink Ladies. Their duties including helping in the clinic office, assisting with patients and most importantly, raising money to purchase equipment and make continuing improvements to the facility.

Contributions made during the first 25 years of the auxiliary included everything from emergency bandages made from nylons, along with homemade hospital gowns and curtains to furnishing the chapel and purchasing heart monitors and helping update the entire hospital's monitoring system.

The Payson Clinic became an accredited hospital in the 1967-1968 fiscal year.

The group considers its biggest project to be the scholarships it awards. There were 35 applicants this year and $20,000 in awards will be presented at the May luncheon. It also gives money to area fire departments for equipment and training, about $15,000 a year, Nelson said .

It also works with many of the MHA programs, including the Women's Wellness Forum, the community classes in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the MHAXIII project, which provides rehabilitation exercise for the victims of cardio and pulmonary illnesses and disease.

There are 87 active volunteers in the auxiliary and 15 inactive members. The average age is 68 and new members are always welcome.

"We're really trying to get some younger women involved," Graser said .

"We really need volunteers," Riggs said. "When you volunteer, you help others and you help yourself."

Johnson said the group likes to have its members serve at least four hours a week, and there are many areas where they can help.

"It's a wonderful organization. I love working with the people," Muggli said.

"I love working at the information desk," Fergen said. "I get to meet so many people and share so much with them. It means so much."

"The volunteers are from all different walks of life," Johnson said, "but when they come to the hospital, they all mesh together."

Hospital volunteers must be at least 16 years old, Baker said. To work in the hospital, volunteers must go through a health screening and training if they are going to be involved in specialized patient services. Volunteers can work just about anywhere in the hospital, including the emergency room and surgery.

For more information, call Riggs at (928) 474-0401.

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