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NIH Auxiliary’s return is a gift to the Healthcare District, community

  • Category: NIHD News
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  • Written By: Barbara Laughon
NIH Auxiliary’s return is a gift to the Healthcare District, community

NIH Auxiliary Gift Shop Co-Chair Carole Sample, NIH Auxiliary President Judy Fratella, and NIH Auxiliary Gift Shop Chair Betty Dickie are ready to greet customers Tuesday, May 3 when the NIH Gift Shop officially re-opens at 12 noon. Photo by Scot Swan/Northern Inyo Healthcare District

Colorful arrays of tiny baby clothes hang perfectly. Fun figurines of garden gnomes, cartoonish fishermen, and elegant dancing mothers await shoppers. The smell of rich, decadent chocolate from See’s Candy boxes fills the room. The sparkling refrigerator stands ready to hold fresh floral displays once again.

After re-stocking the Gift Shop all last week in their crisp white shirts and soft pink jackets, the return of the Northern Inyo Hospital Auxiliary is near. The Gift Shop in the NIH Lobby reopens Tuesday, May 3 at noon, and honestly, it is hard to tell who is more excited – the auxiliary members or the NIHD staff.

More than two years separated the symbiotic units. Aside from an abbreviated Holiday Boutique and some occasional candy sales in the last year, the separation was hard for the volunteers who serve the healthcare district and the staff who adore them.

“Being an auxiliary member has been a big part of my life,” says Auxiliary President Judy Fratella. “Like everyone else, I wondered if we would ever be able to come back. We certainly understood that operating in a healthcare facility at this time would bring certain challenges. Yet here we are, ready to go and anxious to see our hospital friends once again.”

The reunion is shaping up to be nothing but sweet. Auxiliary member Betty Dickey, Chairperson of the Gift Shop, laughs. “We had people coming in almost every day while we were cleaning, asking about hours and what we would have available, and always asking about the See’s Candy. They always ask about the See’s Candy.”

Dickey says staffing will limit operations to Tuesday through Thursday, 12 noon to 4 p.m. “If we can boost our membership, we will open back up to five days a week,” Dickey says. “But let’s take it easy, just three days a week while we get back to business.”

Easy must be an unfamiliar dynamic for the hospital’s longest-serving volunteer group. Yet, like most service groups sidelined during the pandemic, the Auxiliary is eager to return, even to a new normal. Supporting NIHD since the 1960s, the purpose of the NIH Auxiliary is to render service to the hospital and its patients through ways approved or proposed by the Governing Board of the Northern Inyo Healthcare District. The Auxiliary has given almost $720,000 toward equipment purchases for the hospital.

The Holiday Boutique is the NIH Auxiliary’s largest fundraising event. The Auxiliary also operates the Gift Shop that serves as a profitable venture and as an essential service to patients, visitors, and staff.

The Gift Shop features items, including snacks, unique seasonal gifts, jewelry, and baby clothing. See’s Candy is available year-round, and the shop carries gift-able items for those visiting hospital patients. The floral arrangements from Devon’s Flowers will return just after Mother’s Day and the high school prom.

Membership in the Auxiliary is open to men as well as women. Please remember not all new members have to be crafters. As Dickey reminds us, there is room for everyone with every skill set. Anyone with questions about the NIH Gift Shop or interested in joining the Auxiliary may call Judy Fratella at (760) 873-4059.