An inspiring group.

Ask Cathy Trewyn, director of volunteer services at INTEGRIS Grove Hospital, to describe the women (and men) who make up the hospital's auxiliary, and she can put it into one word: Inspiring.

For that reason, the hospital auxiliary, which boasts more than 100 members, is this year's Grand Lake's Most Inspirational Woman.

The auxiliary, which dates back to at least 1968, has accumulated more than 620,000 volunteer hours.

Trewyn said volunteers with the auxiliary average 2,300 hours per month.

To put it into perspective, a full-time employee works 2,080 each year.

At least 24 members are considered "lifetime" having served with the auxiliary more than 15 years.

The longest tenured volunteer is Daisy Davis, who has volunteered for 41 years.

Of the other volunteers, Darlene Underwood, who manages the auxiliary's gift shop, has worked the most for any one volunteer, racking up more than 19,000 hours during her time of service.

"The hours they put in, and their willingness to do it, is truly inspiring," Trewyn said. "They are the heart of the hospital, because they [all] have caring, nurturing and giving spirits. They are the heart of everything because their service touches every department."

Trewyn said volunteers with the auxiliary serve in the gift shop, as couriers and help in a multitude of departments including registration, radiology, lab, cath lab, surgery, women's health, information desk, physicians offices, materials management, man the refreshment cart, and serve as patient advocates.

Raising funds

Through fundraisers and monies raised by gift shop sales, members of the auxiliary provide for two primary items: they fund a scholarship which helps provide money for employees enrolled in school and furthering their education in health care, and they purchase equipment needed for the facility.

The annual scholarship fund earmarks up to $10,000 for employees each year.

Items purchased for the hospital include a Sonosite Portable Ultrasound, a Lucas Chest Compression System for the emergency room, an Infant Warmer for Women’s Health, as well as EMS lifts, a Bili-light for jaundiced babies, a glidescope for intubation, a bone density machine, and equipment for visual imagery and music therapy.

Faces of the Auxiliary

Bob Carlson

Bob Carlson, who serves as the current president, volunteers at the hospital with his wife, Bobbie. 

The pair are one of 10 couples who spend their time each week at the facility. 

Carlson, who is in his second of three years as president, works as a mail courier. He began volunteering in fall of 2009, after seeing how much fun his wife was having with the group.

Bobbie Carlson is one of the 24 lifetime members of the auxiliary, having served since 1998.

"[The auxiliary] is a great group of people," Bob Carlson said. "That's what's nice about it. It's also rewarding to help others."

Carlson, and others, describe the auxiliary as an extended family.

"We become part of the hospital's team to provide a service for the community," Carlson said, adding he's proud to have been part of the group to coordinate the employee scholarship fund.

He also appreciates the teamwork which develops between the auxiliary and the hospital's core staff, citing the annual Souper Bowl event, which takes place the Saturday before the Super Bowl.

In the event, auxiliary members host a soup/chili luncheon, while hospital employees conduct health screenings for the community.

Darlene Underwood

Darlene Underwood is another lifetime auxiliary member. Since the beginning, Underwood has spent much of her time managing the auxiliary's gift shop. 

Those duties include going to market at least once a year in Dallas, to purchase items for the shop, as well as managing the merchandise and cashiers.

While small, Underwood said, the gift shop routinely grosses at least $6,000 a month for the auxiliary. Proffits help continue the business, as well as purchase needed equipment for the hospital.

"It's just a great bunch of people to give your time with," Underwood said, adding she also likes meeting people who visit the shop. "Sometimes people come to the gift shop just to hang out while a family member or friend is in the hospital."

Underwood began working with the auxiliary at the request of her friend, and then neighbor, Sue Gray. 

She began serving as a courier, before moving into the gift shop. 

Her favorite store involving the gift shop took place in the last few years - when a young man came into the store, purchased a ring and then proceed to get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend in front of the cashier.

B.J. Brady

At 91 years young, B.J. Brady has served with the auxiliary since August 1989.

She joined the group after she moved to Grove with her husband, bringing with her five years of experience with the auxiliary at Hillcrest Hospital in Claremore.

She said the auxiliary not only gives her a place to serve, but also a reason to stay active. 

When her husband died three years ago, Brady said auxiliary members were there for her, cried with her, and worked to keep her spirits up.

"I love how the auxiliary helps [where it's] needed," Brady said. "If there's something to be done, they either teach us how to do it, or we just do it.

"We're always doing something. It's just rewarding."

Brady, a heart patient herself since birth, often spends her time volunteering with the Cath Lab patients.

"I mainly talk to to people while they are waiting, and try to keep their mind off of [the procedures], so they don't worry," Brady said.