Newborn babies have better care now at Hutchinson Health, thanks to a portable ultrasound machine donated by the Hutchinson Health Auxiliary.

"It's just a great tool for us to have," said Theresa Smith, BirthCare center and same-day surgery manager.

The machine is just one of many helpful devices the volunteer organization has made possible in its 57-year history. The Hutchinson Health Auxiliary has raised almost $2 million for Hutchinson Health through its thrift, coffee and gift shops, as well as private donations.

"All the money we make from all these entities stays locally, right here in Hutch, and is used for the betterment of patients at (Hutchinson Health)," said Sally Moehring, auxiliary president.

Each year, Hutchinson Health gives the auxiliary board a list of things it wants to purchase, and the board chooses one or two things to donate. In addition to the portable ultrasound machine, a heart rate monitor will be donated to the hospital's cardiac rehab department. The machine should arrive this fall and will record heart rhythms more accurately and efficiently, as well as reduce paperwork.

"It's going to be a very positive update and a great improvement to our system," said Janet Mraz, a registered nurse in cardiac rehab.

Past donations include anesthesia machines, defibrillators, a Lucas 2 machine that performs chest compressions more effectively in the emergency room and new ambulances.

In addition to providing funds, the auxiliary provides a number of services to Hutchinson Health and its patients:

  • delivering mail to patients and carry documents between departments
  • knitting caps for all babies born in Hutchinson
  • giving out large stockings to put newborns in on their first trip home
  • making bags that hook onto walkers for people in the orthopedic wing
  • offering scholarships for high school seniors and college students entering the medical field, and
  • welcoming visitors to the hospital at the hospital information desk.

The auxiliary also coordinates Vial of Life, a program that gives small cylinders inside which people to put a list of their medications. The vial is then kept in their purse, car and refrigerator so emergency personnel can find it.

Another of its programs is Missing Grace, which provides grief counseling, baskets and other aid to families who lose a newborn child.

"We're really involved with a lot of things at the hospital," Moehring said.

Aside from the coffee shop cooks, the auxiliary relies completely on volunteers to run the thrift, gift and coffee shops, as well as its other services. The auxiliary has around 400 members, but only 255 are active volunteers.

"We can always use volunteers," Moehring emphasized. The coffee shop is especially in need of volunteers now. If you’re interested in volunteering with the auxiliary, contact Anna Harvala at 320-484-4513 or visit the thrift, coffee or gift shop you wish to volunteer at. Training will be given.

THRIFT, GIFT AND A CUP OF COFFEE

The thrift shop is celebrating 35 years of giving back to Hutchinson. It’s doing well, but volunteers there hope people don’t forget about it when Goodwill opens on Highway 15 South.

“The Goodwill is a fear, but I’m not afraid of that, really,” said Dawne Metzger, auxiliary thrift store manager. “I think that if everyone in Hutchinson and everyone in the outlying areas recycled their clothing and items, it would be more than all of us (Hutchinson thrift stores) could handle.”

The thrift shop first opened in the Hutchinson Armory on First Avenue Southwest, where Citizens Bank's downtown drive-through bank now stands. An October 2000 edition of the Leader said, "A building that stood about where ShopKo is today eventually became home to the Thrift Shop. But a tornado that struck Hutchinson in June 1983 destroyed that building, miraculously leaving volunteer workers Fern Frank and her daughter uninjured." Much of the merchandise also survived.

Now, the thrift store is at 25 N.Main St. See the sidebar for its hours and information about making donations.

All profits go toward improving the health of Hutchinson. Even what the thrift shop doesn’t keep stays local — items it can’t use or that have been on the shelf too long are donated to the Disabled American Veterans.

“I think it’s very important for people to know it all stays in Hutchinson,” Metzger said.

Sandy Brelje of Brownton has volunteered with the thrift shop since 2006. "I've had a lot of volunteer jobs, but this is the one I like the best," she said.

The thrift store will celebrate its anniversary with a sale during the first week of October.

You can buy a thoughtful gift for a friend or family member at the auxiliary gift shop in Hutchinson Health near the hospital entrance. The shop offers cards, jewelry, accessories, stuffed animals and more at low prices.

"We have people that come just to shop at the gift shop," said Judy Simons, gift shop manager.

Betty Nielsen, who volunteers once a month at the gift shop, said, "I feel that that's a worthwhile venture for me. I like to volunteer somewhere where I feel I can make a difference in some little way."

Directly to your right as you walk into the clinic is the auxiliary coffee shop, but you don’t have to have an appointment at the clinic to get a cup of joe and a nice meal. In addition to coffee, the shop offers a selection of baked goods, main dishes and beverages. Food is made from scratch right in the coffee shop's kitchen, and breakfast and lunch specials are advertised daily. Coffee shop chef and manager Rosy Cady said rhubarb tortes and popovers are the most popular items.

"One of my customers said we're one of the best-kept secrets in town," she said.