Legacy of Redwood Area Hospital Auxiliary Will Live On

Published in News
While many residents of the Redwood Falls area may not know much about the Redwood Area Hospital Auxiliary, they have likely benefitted from one of the many contributions the organization has made to the community over its seven decades.

Like many hospital auxiliaries, their roots can be traced back to the early 1950s. Shortly after World War II, Congress passed the Hill-Burton Act. This law gave government funds to rural communities to build or modernize their hospitals in exchange for making a reasonable amount of their services available to people in their service area who could not pay. The war was over, the economy was booming and citizens came together to rally support for their local communities. When Redwood Falls built a new 42-bed city hospital under the Hill-Burton Act in 1951, an auxiliary was soon to follow.

The first meeting of the Redwood Falls Hospital Auxiliary was held in the high school auditorium on April 30, 1951 and 143 women signed the charter. At one time, the group had grown to as many as 600 members. They raised funds, volunteered with staff and patients where appropriate and purchased furniture and equipment for the hospital as needed. A vast list of contributions from the auxiliary were given to benefit the health and wellbeing of the community, including surgery equipment, lab analyzer and life-saving Lucas CPR compressor.

Mary Arndt got involved with the Redwood Area Hospital Auxiliary in the late 1990s while she was still working in the nutrition department at the hospital, a position she held for 34 years until she retired in 2019.

"I saw what they were doing in the hospital and I wanted to help," says Arndt. "To do something with my time in the community."

Since at least the 1980s, though, the number of active members dwindled and the needs became more expensive and more complicated. Arndt noted that, like many organizations, its difficult to attract young people to volunteer.

"Women are out working now to bring in a needed income for their families," she said. Most hospitals, including Carris Health - Redwood, are managing large fundraising needs and complex investment structures through a non-profit foundation with staff dedicated to managing those funds.

The auxiliary quietly disbanded in 2021, but their legacy will be felt for years to come through a fund created with Carris Health Foundation – Redwood. The Redwood Area Hospital Auxiliary Education Fund will be available for scholarships and educational assistance for employees of Carris Health-Redwood who want to advance their career or further their education in healthcare.

"We wanted something that would go on," says Arndt.

As for the volunteers themselves, Arndt said she will continue to volunteer at Carris Health-Redwood at the information desk and some of the other remaining auxiliary members have taken on other volunteer roles. These new opportunities allow them to continue to use their skills and talents to benefit the health and wellbeing of the Redwood community.

Others who are interested in volunteering for Carris Health - Redwood can contact Sharon Fromm, 507-637-4500, ext 47482. The organization is currently in need of hospice volunteers.