Community notebook: End of era as Stanford Medical Center Auxiliary dissolves


As a parting gift, the recently dissolved Stanford University Medical Center Auxiliary contributed $525,000 to the Auxiliary Art Fund in June. The fund will help create an art space in the atrium of the new hospital, including a sculpture by Israeli artist Zadok Ben-David.

An eight-member planning committee allocated assets and chose the gift after meeting every Friday from September 2014 to March 2015.

"We liked the idea of art because many of us love art," said Auxiliary President Françoise Miller. "The art space will be a good place for patients and families, and it keeps the Auxiliary alive in some ways."

The nonprofit volunteer organization, which was founded in 1929 to serve the old Palo Alto Hospital, voted to dissolve in 2015 after losing hospital support. It held its last annual meeting Feb. 28 at the Stanford Faculty Club and featured a display of photos and mementos from the groups 55-plus years of service. Fifteen members were recognized for their thousands of hours of service, including two 50-year members.

"Many people are upset, but it was a business decision by the hospital," Miller said. "Our organization was one of compassion, serving by being close to patients, family and staff."

When the Stanford University School of Medicine moved to its present location and the new hospital building opened in 1959, the group incorporated under California's nonprofit code. The group was dedicated to supporting and complementing "patient care and community service at Stanford University Medical Center by assisting patients, relatives and visitors in a responsible manner with compassion, devotion and courtesy," according to the organization's website.

Over the years, volunteers, including men and women of all ages, raised money to contribute gifts and equipment totaling more than $4.3 million, presented scholarships totaling almost $1 million to employees for continuing education and volunteered more than 3 million hours.

For members, the Auxiliary was a way to give back after spending time in the hospital themselves or tending to loved ones. After Miller's husband passed away, she joined the organization in 2003 to give back through her accounting skills. She volunteered in the gift shop, surgery center and office, and helped with scholarships for students pursuing medical fields.

The rapidly changing nature of hospitals, loss of office space, and lack of steady volunteers and finances contributed to the group's end. The Auxiliary lost nearly half its active membership in 2006 when the hospital took over the volunteer-run gift shop, Miller said. At the end, the group had 66 active members.

Volunteers could continue to serve through guest services, but many stopped volunteering or instead started helping at the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital or Stanford Cancer Center, Miller said.

The group has about $75,000 left in funds that it will distribute through the Department of Social Services by the end of July.

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Like this comment
Posted by a reader
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 6, 2015 at 4:33 pm

I think you've got too many zeroes for the group's last gift. I'm assuming it should be a $525,000 donation, not $525 million.

Like this comment
Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jul 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

Thank you, reader, for alerting us to that error. You are correct: The Auxiliary contributed $525,000.

9 people like this
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 6, 2015 at 6:10 pm

Not to be confused with the Allied Arts Guild (Menlo Park) --- which supports the Packard Children's Hospital.

50 people like this
Posted by Jennie
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 7, 2015 at 11:32 am

The volunteers made the 'hospital experience' manageable. I can tell the difference; and if we could, we'd go to El Camino Hospital. Stanford Hospital experience is not what it once was. I am sorry that the Auxilliary closed down. The 'pink ladies' will always be remembered. God Bless them all. The entire hospital seems to different.

21 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2015 at 7:54 am

I have fond memories of my wife, Ganet, volunteering there for several years. She always looked nice in her uniform and she met a lot of other volunteers and they became friends. They took their work very seriously and helped make hospital stays and departures comfortable for patients. Garnet died last year. Her 1000 hour pin is still in her jewelry box.

17 people like this
Posted by Bunyip
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 8, 2015 at 2:52 pm

The hospital is another corporate conglomarence. For a non profit it is certainly enjoying a remarkable growth period. Sad that the community is pushed aside during this megalomania period. How can the hospital not support the auxiliary??? Shame shame shame.. I'm off to kaiser

5 people like this
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 8, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Kudos to the Stanford Medical Auxiliary on their classy gifts to the hospital upon their closing down. They have been a wonderful organization with their considerate assistance for patients and staff at Stanford. They will be missed.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob Wenzlau
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 6:02 pm

The vote to wind down a civic organization is bold, and the board should be commended for leadership that sometimes take a sad but realistic turn. I am confident that compassion has not left our community, and new venues proper for new generations will emerge. We have other organizations in town that have similar circumstance, and there are lessons to be learned for all. My own context was being part of winding down Briarpatch community market years ago, and these decisions are made not for love of the mission.

13 people like this
Posted by Great Ladies
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 8, 2015 at 6:20 pm

First of all, Gale, allow me to offer my condolences on Garnet's passing. I know it leaves a terrible void. If she was a pink lady, she was also a great lady.

I have to say that for at least the last twenty years, Stanford Hospital has had Kaiser-quality medical care at 2-3 times El Camino Hospital prices! Some non-profit!

Now that the pink ladies are gone, THAT leaves a void! There is no one to soften the crude Stanford experience. I could not have born it otherwise a few years ago when my leg was broken and mangled and my knee dislocated. I was so disappointed to find out my surgeon could not work at either Sequoia or El Camino, so I was stuck with Stanford. The post-op care was horrid, I couldn't got ice packs fort leg, even though the doc ordered them to be applied every two hours. My morphine pump ran out of juice every night.

The pink ladies were the only ones to successfully intercede. The ONLY time I got ice packs were when a pink lady brought them.

Fortunately for me, my current insurance company forbids me to use Stanford. The reason: overpriced sub-standard care.

4 people like this
Posted by Spitting in the ocean
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2015 at 8:34 pm

Boggles the mind that anyone would donate a penny to Stanford outside of a quid pro for their child's admission, or some such. As has been pointed out by a past CA Senate candidate, Stanford, Harvard, and similar schools with massive endowments earning annual returns well beyond what it costs to run a university, are really just large hedge funds, with nominal universities attached for appearance sake.

7 people like this
Posted by Ancient Lady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 8, 2015 at 9:51 pm

As a former candy striper with hundreds of hours in patient services, emergency room and gift shop, it is a sad day for me the Auxiliary has died. It was a great organization for high schoolers to get a view into the day-to-day life at a hospital. We had great training and grew up fast with that exposure to the adult world. As volunteers we had the time always to give to patients, families and staff that the paid staff rarely had. Sometimes just the little things we did like making fresh and free coffee in the ER made worried families smile. Or taking a patient stuck in hospital room alone and too long on a wheelchair tour of the hospital brightened that patient's day. For many women shut out of the job market decades ago it was a godsend for ladies who had skills that their "society" or families disliked to let them use at paid jobs. A few retired gentlemen also joined in for regular weekly volunteer work.

But, times do change. Women from all backgrounds are now very welcome in the work force. Ladies auxiliaries and arts service guilds are dying all over. Unions want no volunteers ever, anywhere in my experience doing jobs "someone should be paid for and giving dues to a union!" The Hospital gift shop has the same merchandise... but brusque service and more expensive prices. And, each time I go to that hospital I see fewer smiling faces. Too bad.

Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 9, 2015 at 12:52 am

Sort of off-topic, but Ancient Lady's point about unions vs volunteers is something I've always wondered about: How do volunteers get away with violating minimum wage laws? If I can volunteer to work for free, how come I can't volunteer to work for $6/hr? It certainly has nothing to do with professionalism or the usefulness of the task. I suspect the tax-man is also happy to see the waning days of volunteers.

4 people like this
Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jul 9, 2015 at 8:09 am

In answer to "musical" - the volunteers of the Stanford Medical Center Auxiliary were not employees of Stanford Hospital. They worked for their own non-profit organization which has very different rules. Disbanding the organization was not as simple as saying "we are disbanded." They had to follow quite explicit guidelines and that is why it took so much planning on the Auxiliary's part. Even so, they were generous and gracious to the institution where they worked for so long (since 1929.)

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 10, 2015 at 7:47 pm

I don't know the details, but one reason that the Auxiliary is giving all its assets to Stanford Hospital may be a contractual obligation. Remember, the link between the two organizations was forged way back when volunteers were a more integral part of hospital operations, and the volunteers were motivated more by patriotic duty than by résumé building. I wouldn't be surprised to discover that the founding articles of the Auxiliary specifies that their assets would be transferred to Stanford Hospital if there were a dissolution, which would make perfect sense in the context of the day.

Fast forward to 2015, where Stanford Hospital is now run as a corporation, and patient care is managed as a profit center. This asset transfer makes less sense for the Auxiliary, but they may be bound by their original articles, and the hospital is certainly not going to let half a million dollars slip away!

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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