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Rowan Medical Center Auxiliary thanks volunteers, seeks more

By Susan Shinn

For The Salisbury Post

Every local volunteer group would like to have more members, and the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Auxiliary is no different.

On May 7, the group hosted a tea — as it has for many years — to thank its current members and invite new members to join its ranks.

The hospital counts some 165 volunteers, male and female, in 18 different areas throughout the medical center. Although the gift shop might be the most visible place you see volunteers, they also serve in family waiting rooms, medical records, in patient relations, transportation and more. Whenever you spot someone wearing a purple jacket or vest — OK, technically, the color is aubergine — you know that’s a hospital volunteer.

“They are our ambassadors for the hospital,” says Jill Rabon, the hospital’s manager of volunteer services. “They meet the needs of our community and our hospital. They’re always first to jump on board and offer their help.”

The auxiliary currently has four life members — those who have served for more than 20 years — Carolyn Hood, Gussie Ryan, Barbara Waggoner and Jewel Ziprik.

Barbara got involved at a friend’s invitation when she returned to Salisbury in 1971. She brings a special touch in arranging all of the items in the gift shop.

Carolyn and Jewel both say they can’t remember how they got involved, because it’s been so long. After looking at a list of past presidents, Jewel believes she’s been part of the group for 54 years.

“I knew all the ladies who were involved,” Jewel says. That includes Addie Ketner, who’s now 104. “I love it.”

Although Jewel no longer volunteers, she does attend meetings.

Gussie moved to Salisbury in the 1980s, and a neighbor invited her to volunteer at the hospital.

“We pushed the book cart around,” Gussie recalls. “I’ve just enjoyed it. I felt I was doing something to help.”

Sandy Morrison is the gift shop’s paid employee who works closely with volunteers, who help staff the shop. The auxiliary pays her salary, and she’ll observe 32 years of service in September. The shop at Rowan is the only Novant facility staffed by volunteers.

“They are excellent to work with,” Sandy says of the volunteers. “They are a caring, kind, compassionate group of ladies.”

The group works together to stock the shop with items customers want.

“And we are forced to buy when we work there,” says Toni Kenerly, smiling. She is the auxiliary’s president for this year.

“People from the community find out about us and they come back and shop,” Sandy says.

The shop has recently expanded into clothing and offers the same labels found in local boutiques.

“It’s all evolved over the years,” Toni says. “More purses, more jewelry, more clothes.”

“We’ve probably sold 5,000 pocketbooks,” Barbara says, “and that’s conservative!”

Auxiliary members fondly remember when the hospitality shop served homemade pimento cheese, chicken salad and desserts.

“Carolyn’s mother made the first cakes we ever sold,” Jewel says. The late Juanita Williams was a well-known local caterer.

“People would stand in line for our pimento cheese and our chicken salad,” Barbara says.

Since the cafeteria is right next door now, the gift shop only stocks candy, crackers, cookies and drinks.

Over the years, the auxiliary has made sizable donations to the hospital. That includes the donation of a new hospital chapel in 2007, funding a sunroom at the Glenn Kiser Hospice House in 2011, as well as donations of baby caps, books, crayons, coloring books, combs and slippers to patients throughout the year.

One of the auxiliary’s ongoing projects is its annual Tree of Hope. Every year before Christmas, community members can purchase a light for the tree in honor or memory of loved ones. Donation forms will be available beginning in October, says Teresa McKinney, the group’s first vice president. Four times a year, the group hosts jewelry sales and uniform sales.

The auxiliary also provides annual scholarships to two nursing students at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, and two scholarships for high school students who participate in the junior auxiliary. This program is open to boys and girls ages 14 to 18.

“The volunteers bring such joy to everybody,” Jill says. “That gentle touch, that warm smile, helps improve a visitor’s day. You can’t put a price on that.”

“You stand there and listen,” Barbara says. “People will tell you everything that’s going on.”

“I get a lot of hugs from people,” Sandy says. “Sometimes, they just need someone to listen to them.”

For more information about the Novant Health Rowan Medical Center Auxiliary, contact Jill Rabon at 704-210-5157 or jarabon@novanthealth.org.


Freelance writer Susan Shinn lives in Salisbury.

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