Caring For Health

Mogollon Health Alliance stems from the 1953 Junior Woman's Club

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Rim Country residents, a great many of them women, have volunteered countless hours to bring in and support local medical services for nearly 55 years.

The story goes that in 1953 Doris Taylor decided that for 20 years there had been no doctor in Payson and it was high time a doctor was found and a clinic built to meet the need.

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Howard Billingsley became a volunteer at the Mogollon Health Alliance Auxiliary mostly by being helpful to his wife, Shirley. The group raises money to provide support services to the hospital, including sales at the Almost New Shop. When Howard proved adept at fixing up donated items for sale, he got drafted into the Auxiliary.

In 1954, Taylor and a group of women that included Pat Cline, Johnnie Cline, Leta Jean Haught, Hazel Owens and, Nora Surrett met in the Rock House (now the Julia Randall Elementary School gym) and began making plans.

They formed the Junior Woman's Club and began raising funds.

With $11,000 in the bank a few years later, Steve and Cindy Hathaway donated two acres of land for the clinic. Jude and Alice Murphy gave another significant gift then Jude went to Valley National Bank and acquired a loan.

The clinic was completed and by 1959 had a diagnostic laboratory and 10 more patient beds to go with the waiting room, surgery room, supply room and emergency entrance.

In 1965, Lewis and Nan Pyle made a major donation to the little hospital that increased the bed count to 16.

By 1967, the hospital had 26 beds.

When Lewis died in 1975, Nan kick-started a new hospital building fund when she donated $100,000 in his memory. Over the years, Nan donated more than a quarter million dollars for the hospital before her death in 1985.

The expansion was complete in 1978 and the 44-bed hospital was named the Lewis R. Pyle Memorial Hospital.

Mogollon Health Alliance Auxiliary members have volunteered 334,577 hours since the group's inception in 1983 to February 2008.

Patricia Graser is the auxiliary member with the longest tenure.

Her friend and now emeritus member, Lorainne Austin, trained her to work on the floor of the hospital helping the nurses when the hospital building was just where the offices are now.

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Volunteers like Carol Brooks of the Mogollon Health Alliance Auxiliary raise money to support services for patients through sales of various items at the La Boutique gift shop. The 114 volunteers donate the equivalent of 12 full-time staff positions each year.

Back then, they made tray papers to make the patients smile and checked to see if they needed a drink or a bit of friendly conversation.

The Pink Ladies still do the latter two activities.

"Helen Bates, another emeritus member, and I made bonnets for the new babies out of handkerchiefs," Graser said.

Graser has also headed up Valentine candy sales for many years.

Once, Graser even lay awake at night dreaming up ways to make a little money for the organization at each meeting. She hopes to reach 10,000 volunteer hours. She said that it is the people she works with and those she helps that are the most important part of those hours.

"Our volunteers are wonderful," MHA Director Judy Baker said.

The volunteers have sorted bags of clothes and lamps at the Almost New Shop, waited on people in the La Boutique Gift Shop in Payson Regional Medical Center and made baked goods and crafts to sell.

They also assist people with questions at the hospital information desk and help out with patient services.

In addition, they work if needed in the MHA office.

Volunteers assist with MHA's Women's Wellness Forum and the Health and Care Fair. They also collect donations for the food bank.

But the volunteers also reap benefits from their service. Carol Brooks moved to town five years ago, hoping to both make friends and make a difference in her new community. So she joined the auxiliary. She has since volunteered more than 1,000 hours in La Boutique.

Shirley Billingsley joined the auxiliary before her husband Howard did officially.

"For a year, Howard would fix things I would bring home from MHA donations. He asked me one day if I was getting credit for the hours. I told him, no, you'd better sign up.

Now, Howard volunteers at the thrift store on Friday afternoons and calculates volunteer hours.

Presently there are 114 members, 88 of them active with 25 hours per quarter of volunteer time.

Baker estimated volunteer time in recent years is the equivalent of 9 to 12 full-time salaries per year.

Background for this story was condensed from "The ladies, bless 'em, got a hospital" -- a Jan. 7, 2003, Roundup article by Stan Brown.

Mogollon Health Alliance Auxiliary

Founded: MHA was founded in 1954. The auxiliary began in 1983.

Officers: Arlynne Roth, president, Marge Roche, vice president, Janet Braun, secretary, Shirley Billingsley, treasurer and Nansi Conrad, assistant treasurer

Purpose: Supporting quality health care in the Rim Country.

Contact info: Mogollon Health Alliance, 308 E. Aero Dr., Payson (928) 742-2588.

How to join: Stop by a meeting.

Meeting day, time and place: Meetings are the first Tuesday of each month. Refreshments at 12:30 p.m., regular meeting at 1 p.m. The location varies from the MHA Activity Center, the conference room at the hospital, the Payson Public Library and Mt. Cross Lutheran Church.

Contributions to community / major projects: The Almost New Shop, a thrift store and the La Boutique Gift Shop in the hospital lobby.

Volunteer names: Nancy Agent, Chris Decker Floanne Maharry Norma Topic, Nancy Ayers Helen Dillion, Ann-Marie Marley Jean Weible, Ida Baltz, Kay Dino, Mae Morrison, Jean M. Wight, Beverly Bastow, Mary Jo Dornbusch, Joanne Moss, Don Wilson, Paul Bastow ,Betty Drum, Frances Muggli, Naomi Wilson, Norma Baughman, Alice Fay Eckman, Bessie Neiswanger-Nice, Walter Baughman, Linda Evans, Leona Nelson, Anita Wilson, Clara Bernard, Debbie Everett, Nancy Nicholas, Nancy Yoakum, Ivan Bernard, LouAnn Fentzlaff, Marlene Nielsen, Wanda Yocum, Shirley Jean Billingsley, Rosemary Fergen, Dee Nieman, Jean Zimbal, Howard Billingsley, Diane Bedsworth, Frederick Verna Orr, Debra Jo Bodin, Diana Freshwater, Pamela Padilla, Chris Botts, Dee Gailey, Myra Penning, Janet Braun, Nancy Gartner ,Peggy Pinkerton, Patricia Bray, Marty Ghera, Delores Pugh, Carol Brooks, Betty Grant, Sally Pullen, Sarah Brown, Patricia Graser, Jean Rehwald, Ginny Brubaker, Sandy Hanratty, Willie Richards, Judy Bushroe, Bob Hansen, Florence Rigby, Sally Bystricky, Maria Hawkins, Bertha Bond-Riggs, Bill Carter, Audrey Hennings, Kay Rigney, Pat Carter, Mary Higgenbothan, Joe Roche, Duane Caza, Becky Hodge, MargeRoche, Janet Caza, Lou Hubbard, Arlynne Roth, Terri Cheek, Giovina (Gio) Huffman, Tom Ryan, Donna Chisholm, Doris Hughes, Marcy Sharafinski, Pat Clearman, Shirley (Chick) Ideker, Carol Shear, Roberta Cogswell, Caroline Johnson, Carole Shevlin, Betty Cole, Eleanor Johnson, Doris Siders, Marge Collins, Pat Johnson, Pat Sinatra, Nansi Conrad, Eloise Jones, Lili Stanford, Mary Alice Cook, Arlene Keefer, Joanna Stottler, Erma Crippen, Monnie Koontz, Doris Strickland, Marge Crout, Cathy Le Moine, Frank Sullivan, Judy Dahl, Lewis Barbara and Marianne Thoen.

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