"One of our board members said to me long before this hospital was in view, 'If the women get behind the movement, the hospital will come.' You have proved him right."
Thus spoke Dr. W. J. Burdell, son of the hospital's first benefactor, the late Capt. John Burdell, on December 1, 1913, at the gala reception celebrating the opening of the Camden Hospital. The women to whom he referred were the many members of the Woman's Hospital Auxiliary.
Almost two years before this auspicious occasion, Mrs. John W. Corbett set the ball in motion by calling a meeting at her home on February 3, 1912, to organize an auxiliary to raise funds toward the building and equipment of what was then being referred to as the Burdell hospital. Kershaw County had received from the will of Capt. Burdell a handsome legacy of properties, valued at more than $75,000, for the purpose of establishing a county hospital which would be open to all "for the Alleviation of Suffering of Humanity." But as the greater part of the money was left for the maintenance of the proposed hospital and for medical care for those too poor to pay, the county would have to buy the site as well as start the building.
Invited to the meeting, among others, were the presidents of every church society, the wives of all the physicians and ministers of the town, and the president of the Civic League. With Mrs. Corbett presiding, it was decided to call a meeting of all the women of the county, with representatives from all the townships, to be held at the Opera House on February 10 to organize and elect a president and other officers. (It's interesting to note that between Mrs. Corbett's meeting on Saturday, February 3 and the proposed one on the 10th, she joined Mrs. Snell of "Cool Springs" in giving a tea for the benefit of the Auxiliary, a group which had yet to be formed.)
Be that as it may, a large representation of women of the community met at noon on the following Saturday at the Opera House and there officially became the "Woman's Auxiliary to the Board of Managers of the John Burdell Memorial Hospital Fund." The slate of officers proposed and elected that day were: president, Mrs. Douglas A. Boykin; 1st vice president, Mrs. William M. Shannon; 2nd vice president, Mrs. S. E. Goodale; 3rd vice president, Mrs. E.C. von Tresckow; secretary, Mrs. J.B. Wallace; and treasurer, Mrs. Harry Baum.
A committee consisting of Mrs. Mannes Baruch, Mrs. H.G. Lenoir and Mrs. Bruce Davis was appointed to draft a constitution and by-laws. Appointed to organize auxiliary chapters in their different sections of the county were Mrs. Eugene Brown, eastern Kershaw; Mrs. Wm. Burdell, West Wateree; Mrs. J. T. Hay, the southern section of the county; and Mrs. John Richards, Liberty Hill. It was also decided to hold monthly meetings of the full membership with time and place to be announced in the papers. (At first they were held at the Court House, but were later moved to the more centrally located Grace Episcopal Church. Small groups, such as those who sewed for the hospital, met in members' homes.)
Following the Opera House meeting, Mrs. Boykin made a fervent appeal on page 1 of the March 1, 1912, Camden Chronicle to women of Kershaw County to organize and work for the hospital: "You mothers! You housewives! You busy woman! These are the ones we want to help us. The busy woman is always the woman that accomplishes (the) most work outside of her home. The woman of leisure only has time to devote to herself."
About this time, the Chronicle reported that Mrs. S.C. Ancrum had written to Dr. Simon Baruch asking him to use his influence with his son, Bernard, on Camden's behalf; and in a related article declared "our people are much elated over that magnificent gift of Mr. Bernard M. Baruch." The Chamber of Commerce had just received a letter from Mr. Baruch stating that he would give $20,000 toward the hospital. Approximately two weeks later, Mr. Baruch came down from New York unexpectedly, and was so pleased "at the earnestness with which the citizens had gone after the (hospital) work" he doubled his donation to a total of $40,000, so as to cover all of the estimated $35,000 building costs and $5,000 site cost, leaving the entire Burdell gift as an endowment fund for the hospital and for medical care for the poor.
On March 25, 1912, much to the dismay of the Auxiliary leadership, only 40 of the 206 members attended the second monthly meeting, indicating that the initial interest and drive had fallen off when the large donations to the building and endowment of the hospital were made public. Those present were reminded that there was no promise of help from any quarter for the furnishing of the hospital, nor for its equipment (the estimated cost of which was $10,000). Then too, all beautification of the premises, including landscaping, flower and vegetable gardens, etc. would depend greatly upon the Auxiliary's support. Also at this meeting a constitution, written by Mrs. Baruch, was adopted and annual dues were set at 25 cents per year. (For many years thereafter, notices of meetings were published with the reminder to "bring one's annual dues or send it by a friend, for by the constitution any member in arrears of dues for two years must forfeit her membership.")
Again an appeal was made urging women of the county to unite for the cause; and once more the Auxiliary moved into high gear with myriad fund raisers. Simplest were teas or "porch parties" hosted by members, with attendees asked to donate 10 cents. Ice cream and cake was sold in Monument Park on special Mondays; and throughout the summer, ice cream was served on The Square every Tuesday afternoon during the Kershaw Guards drill.
More elaborate projects included a mock trial at the Court House; the sponsorship of plays held at the Opera House (members playing minor roles), with profits split between the Auxiliary and the Yankee theatrical touring companies; and movies, Mary Pickford and Keystone Cops among the favorites. Many card parties, dinners, dances, and musicales were held in private homes, invitations to which read, "donations to the Hospital accepted."
The following accounts from the Camden Chronicle indicate further the variety of events staged by these resourceful women, who in less than six months raised more than $1,200.
A Disappointment to the Ladies -March 8, 1912
The adjournment of Court was quite a disappointment to the ladies of the Hospital Association as they had planned to serve dinner each day during the week. On Monday they did not have a sufficient quantity to supply the demand and on Tuesday they had too much. However they have no cause to complain as they realized about $37.50 from the two days sales. They served good dinners too, and it will always pay to patronize them, whenever they are before the public.
The Ladies of Beulah "Do Themselves Proud." -March 15, 1912
The entertainment planned and perfected by Mrs. E.A. Brown and her co-workers on last Friday evening was a success in every particular. The evening was dark, cold and rainy, the road almost impassable, but all these did not prevent a crowd gathering at the ideal country home of Mr. and Mrs.. E.A. Brown, whither they had been bidden to enjoy a pleasant evening and at the same time make a contribution to the Camden Hospital Fund.
The gas-lighted rooms were beautifully decorated in white and green. Smilax trailed gracefully over the snowy curtains, pictures and mantel. The candy booth in one corner was quite attractive in white and green. Miss Martha McDowell presided and proved a good saleslady as she had the pleasure of "selling out." The fish pond was in the charge of Miss Mary McDowell, assisted by some of the young ladies of the neighborhood, and at the close of the evening it was found that every fish had been caught. The company had the pleasure of listening to several beautiful vocal selections by Mrs. Paul Brown and piano solos by Miss Mildred Goodale. And then came the supper! And such a supper! Not a luncheon, not a dinner with all its formalities, not dainty refreshments that we hear so much about, but an old-time southern supper -- the kind that makes you think of the past, enjoy the present, and dream of the future. The supper we used to get on the old plantation in our grand-mother's day, no need to give the bill of fare, we all remember them, and the Beulah ladies served an old-time supper and served it beautifully too. When the proceeds were counted, they realized the handsome sum of one hundred dollars. To the ladies in other sections of the county we have a word to say, "Go thou, and do likewise."
Tag Day -March 15, 1912
The Hospital Auxiliary is planning to have a Tag Day during the horse show, just which day, we do not know. We want every man in Camden, and every one who is coming to Camden to remember this and be prepared for the "siege," not by hiding behind a rugged battlement of coolness, indifference and stinginess, for we assure them that the Camden girls are invincible. With their bewitching smiles and bewildering grace they can "storm the Citadel," and capture not only the hearts, but the pockets. Small donations will be thankfully received, and no one is to be importuned, for we do not think it necessary. We have too much confidence in the Army on the field; every outside post is to be well guarded. "For the Hospital" is the password; we want every loyal citizen of Kershaw County, and every stranger within our gates, to pass the lines "tagged."
Mock Court -May 8, 1912
The Mock Court trial at the Opera House on Thursday night of last week was a great success. About $215 was taken in. The S.R.O. sign was hung out down stairs and if anyone cared for a seat they had to go to the gallery. The stars of the show were Capt. J.W. Hamel and Miss Ellen Tweed, the parties to the breach of promise suit. The local jokes mixed in the suit brought forth many laughs. The proceeds were divided between the Hospital Auxiliary and Mr. Newton of Massachusetts, the originator of the show.
An entertainment at Jackson School realized a net profit of $18 for the hospital, and by September the Chronicle reported that the black women's auxiliary had raised over $150, "with more coming." A large sum in those days!
On the night of the hospital's grand opening, there was much to show for auxilian dedication. A reporter for the Chronicle observed, "The entire building, including furnishings and everything, is in spotless white and gives the whole the most sanitary appearance. We were shown the linen room furnished by the Ladies Auxiliary which was indeed pretty. Everything snowy white and the blankets of the very best material. Be it said to the credit of the good black women of the city and county that they (also) had a big hand in furnishing many of the articles of linen and they have worked in a quiet way in furnishing many things that will be useful for many years to come."
Dignitaries at the event also recognized the Auxiliary: Dr. Simon Baruch: "I shall convey to my son (Bernard) my admiring surprise at the beauty and completeness of the hospital, which surpasses my most sanguine anticipations, (in particular) the skillful household arrangements of the Ladies Auxiliary Society."
Dr. Wm. Burdell: "Speaking for this board, I wish to thank the Ladies Auxiliary Society for the services they have rendered in furnishing the hospital...I urge you to continue your work, for the hospital needs a Woman's Auxiliary Society as much now and in the future as it has heretofore."
In February 1914, at the Auxiliary's first annual meeting after the hospital's opening, the membership met to elect as president Mrs. Wm. Shannon, wife of the president of the hospital board of trustees. Camilla Nelson Shannon was that "busy woman" out-going president Mrs. Boykin must have alluded to in her early appeal to women on behalf of the hospital. Devoted to the cultural, social, and civic life of Camden, Mrs. Shannon was a charter member of the Civic League, vice president of the public library and active in the development of Camden's parks system; as well as a founding member and first president of the local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
After holding her first two monthly meetings of the entire membership at her home, she accepted, on the Auxiliary's behalf, the offer of the hospital board to hold future monthly meetings in the hospital parlor.
Such was the beginning years of the Auxiliary, and with a few changes, it continues. Over the years, projects changed as hospital needs dictated, and activities to raise funds expanded to incorporate such annual events as fashion shows, formal balls (one of which was a costume Mardi Gras with Mayor Austin Sheheen Sr. as King of Mardi Gras) and White Elephant Sales.
More recent events have included the highly successful golf tournament held each fall, public barbecues and a variety of unadvertised in-house sales such as uniforms, books and jewelry.
For a number of years, funds were generated by the much touted Auxiliary Snack Bar which opened in 1958 (first in the hospital basement and later moved upstairs); but by 1968 the endeavor had ceased to be profitable, and after that year's audit, the board voted to change to vending machines and a gift shop. The First Photo program, membership dues, and contributions continue to provide additional income to support the many Auxiliary projects.
In earlier times, sewing for the hospital was a major undertaking and continued to be so until the early '60s. (In mid-1956 Mrs. Pooser, chairman of the sewing committee, reported her group that year had cut, distributed and sewed, collected and delivered to the hospital 35 pairs of curtains, 24 bed spreads, 54 bibs, 32 chair covers, 800 breast binders and 462 towels; but by 1962 she reported sewing needs were tapering off and so were her volunteers!)
Other hands-on services were the Bookcarts, monthly hospital and grounds inspections (most faults reported to the administrator seemed to be with housekeeping, or rather the lack thereof; poorly organized shelves in closets; sticking windows, and peeling paint), and seeing to flowers, in patients' rooms and public areas, and, with various garden clubs' help, in the flower beds outside.
Disenfranchised and back under their own roof, the organization continued to grow, mainly in its number of volunteers. Each Auxiliary board member was requested to personally recruit seven volunteers from the general membership. At first, all volunteers were also auxilians, but as the ranks swelled and more men became involved, there were many who did not want the dual role. They were not interested in being involved with meetings, fund raising and projects, but simply wanted to aid the hospital and help patients in a more personal, hands-on fashion.
As the Auxiliary board was in charge of all volunteers, by the time uniforms became the rule, there was a Pink Lady chairman and a Candy Striper chairman, with subdivisions all down the line: Pediatrics volunteer chairman, Receptionists volunteer chairman, Bookcart volunteer chairman, Snack Bar/Gift Shop volunteer chairman, etc. The logistics were overwhelming. (One Candy Striper chairman reported to the board that on the occasion of a "coke party" given at the Nurses Home to entice young people to join up, 140 junior and senior highschoolers showed up and registered for work. Unfortunately, she had jobs for only 14!)
By 1966, the Auxiliary board recognized the need for a professional director of volunteer services and put the request before the administrator and the hospital board of trustees -- again and again and again. Though the request was regularly renewed (or as one president put it, "our nagging") it was not until 1977 that the first director of volunteer services, Joyce Lovett Sjolin, was hired. Upon her resignation in 1979, the responsibility fell once again on Auxiliary Volunteer Chairman Tina Ward, until 1980, when Ann Segars became the second paid director. Segars remained in that position for five years, until 1985, when Linda Branham, already a well-loved hospital family member, assumed the role and title. When Branham retired in 2009, Julie Trott became Director of Volunteer Services. In 2011, Amy Kinard assumed the duties.
Last, but not least, the Auxiliary and Volunteer Services owe a great deal of their success to outstanding hospital administrators and staff, including physicians, nurses, and employees. Both organizations have been fortunate to have had the cooperation and support given to them by these generous people dedicated to the hospital and to the health care of Kershaw County.