Niagara Gazette

December 10, 2012

HIGGS: The Auxilia and its 'Gift' to Memorial

By Norma Higgs
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Last time we learned about the early beginnings of our current NFMMC and the formation of the Women’s Auxiliary in 1905. This week we highlight the Gift Shop which has some history also.

The Gift Shop at Memorial Medical Center began back in 1950 where it shared space with the Corner Shop. Actually it only had a few shelves on which to showcase some incidental gifts to purchase.

It was operated at the time by the Niagara Falls Service League. The organization was a group of active female volunteers under the age of 40. The Auxiliary sold handmade knit and craft items in an adjacent display case.

The shop moved to an area now used by communications sometime in 1964. It was operated by both organizations and Bea Phelps represented the Auxiliary and Adrienne Miller was with the Service League then. The two groups shared the buying and staffing.

The Gift Shop moved again in 1971 to the upper lobby area where the volunteer information staff is now located. In 2004 they were moved again to the ground floor just at the bottom of the staircase to accommodate the information desk. It is not the most noticeable location but they have a window display adjacent to the elevator on the first floor which directs visitors to the shop and the full length glass windows showcase the items for sale.

Peg Addoms, who has been an Auxilian for 57 years, (yes I said 57 years) has been decorating the elevator showcase window for as long as it has been there. I caught her at it the other day and it was “looking good” as a work in progress.

A paid, part-time manager, Robert Cinelli was hired in June 1985 when the Service League disbanded and Diane Cockrell took over the responsibility on a full-time basis. She turned it into a full-scale gift shop with department store quality items. Succeeding managers included Eleanor Whelan, Pat Paris and now, Mary Norton who has 25 volunteers.

Mary has been managing the shop since 2003 and I have seen it morph into what I describe as a mini-department store. Where else can you find a candy store, a fresh flower nook, a greeting card display, toys and baby items in a shop where you do not have to have roller skates on to get around during a lunch hour? You can also find snacks, a book corner with magazines, and lots of items for us gals such as some clothing (shawls, hats, gloves, and scarves), purses and lots of great jewelry. I can’t forget to mention the seasonal items for every holiday on our calendar. The Halloween orange has given way to the red and green. It is getting to “to look a lot like Christmas” as the shop is now glowing with twinkling lights, tinkling bells, glittering ornaments, many attractive table top decorating items. It’s not too late to find that special “gift” for someone of any age at this all inclusive shopping center on the ground floor of the NFMMC.

All profits benefit the medical center. The Gift Shop is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m., except for Wednesday and Friday when it closes at 4 p.m. They recently took their show on the road and had a table at the second annual NFMMC “Ladies Night Out” selling over $600 of beautiful scarves, shrugs, capes, and hats with matching gloves.

Outside vendors are often invited to set up in front of the waterfall outside the shop’s door where they offer ladies handbags, jewelry and chocolate. Who says there is no place to shop in Niagara Falls?

Back to more current facts on the Auxiliary, which dropped “Women’s” from its name in 1985 and Angelo D’Aloise made history as he became the first male member of the Auxiliary Board in 2003. He also worked in the Gift Shop along with Anthony Quaranto and others.

The Auxiliary sponsored community forums on health education before the hospital took over the job utilizing the Community Health Worker Program and others. They do continue to provide volunteers for health education programs at Crestwood Commons every other month and to register people attending the bi-monthly programs on Memorial’s metabolic and bariatric services.

But their main thrust today is fundraising to benefit the hospital and they hold many different venues from the charity balls, Beir’s Days, card parties and teas that were popular in the early days.

The more recent boards have come up with some innovative ideas such as the annual Rock-a-thon, sweepstake raffle tickets, the Holiday Lighting with Love which gives you the opportunity to purchase an ornament made by the seniors at the Schoellkopf Health Center in memory of a loved one. This was so successful last year; they needed two trees in the lobby to accommodate all the memorial ornaments.

The Rock-a-thon held in April each year probably raises the most money from donations received from participants who rock in chairs in the upper lobby at the hospital for half-hour increments with each rocker soliciting pledges. The Auxiliary raised more than $7,000 at last year’s event.

My recent newsletter stated for the “first eight months of the year, a total of 316 Auxilians volunteered 7,182 hours, for an average of 23.5 hours a month. In 2011, the Auxiliary raised $47,121 for Memorial’s new patient and family learning center and for the Schoellkopf Health Center.

Doesn’t all this deserve a special cheer?

Norma Higgs serves with the Niagara Beautification Commission and Niagara Falls Block Club Council.