A Box of Volunteer Memories

In a small wooden box, in a tucked away room, I recently found a time capsule filled with notebooks, pictures, and other mementos that teleported me back to when the history of our organization had just begun. While UNC Health Pardee is known throughout the community as a place for healing, care, and compassion, much of its history starts with volunteers. This box of historical treasures, along with shared memories and accounts from over the years, have opened that story to me.

When I started at Pardee in 2023 one of the first things I learned in employee orientation was, before UNC Health Pardee, before Margret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital, there was the legacy of Patton Memorial Hospital. In the early 1900s, a growing epidemic of yellow fever forced many to flee to towns like Hendersonville, and a challenge arose. How would this growing community stay safe, healthy, and cared for? With healthcare still evolving into what we know today, hospitals were few and far between. Luckily for Henderson County, a group of smart and determined women gathered as community volunteers to meet this challenge and overcome it.

In 1905, these women created the Flower Mission a beacon for healing as yellow fever was on the rise. This is where what we now know as Volunteer Services made its first stamp on the organization. These women continued to fight for the care of their community until Patton Memorial Hospital was built. The power of volunteers lay dormant for decades, until 1951, two years before the hospital went through its first expansion, and the Women’s Auxiliary of Patton Memorial Hospital was created. Formed by board member Georgiana Lane, this group allowed residents to feel empowered to take an active role in their community’s health.

In that small box of hidden memories, I found a book with its first entry on August 23, 1951. Pleda H. Jackson recorded a check for $631.25 and noted how the money was to be dispersed within the hospital. In the early years, fundraising through rummage sales was the biggest source of support offered. However, fundraising didn’t just come from outside the group. 

This book also included records of membership dues, a common practice for volunteer programs at the time. Volunteers, or Auxiliary members, would bring forth their own money at a fixed rate to help ensure the success of the group, and ultimately the hospital. Each member provided one, two, or three dollars to the group on a consistent basis. Also tucked in this little worn book, I found a note from the treasurer dated July 16, 1957, which totaled $1,060.10 collected for the year. Today, that is the equivalent of nearly $12,000.

Digging further into the forgotten trove of treasures, I found hundreds of photos, some undeveloped. When holding the films to the light, I saw large groups of volunteers and members gathered around. Their passion was tangible.

Moving to printed photos, clearer and crisper memories of the community coming together to serve appeared before me – members next to toys and dolls made for sale, the community gathered for celebrations over another year of service, and volunteers learning new ways to support their hospital. Laying these photos out, a mural came together. It showed the story of how the community rallied to support, love, and care for its hospital and residents.

I realized our community’s dedication has never wavered. These volunteers never ask for anything in return, except the opportunity to serve. Our volunteer group has continually evolved, through name changes, expansions, and COVID-19, with our community rallied behind us. However, amidst these changes, one unwavering constant persists – their passion for Pardee. Passion for serving their neighbors, the nurses, the providers, and everyone who works in a field so vital to the community.

We still see that passion today. Volunteers are constantly asking and searching for ways to support Pardee. We see them now in new and growing roles, making patient rounds, guiding family members through the hospital, organizing spreadsheets, and offering clerical services. I meet with community members every week and have the pleasure of listening to the stories that lead them to volunteer. Retired nurses, former patients, eager students, and those with a passion to serve share their desire to see Pardee thrive and be a part of it.

As I reflect on the ever-changing landscape of our world, I’m reminded of the enduring presence of volunteers. Through the evolution of societal norms, shifts in demographics, and the pursuit of knowledge by younger generations, volunteers have remained steadfast. They do not have to serve, in an environment that is often filled with illness, and sadness, but they have always shown up. Support like that is what makes them more than a volunteer, more than a resource. It makes them family.

Interested in becoming a Pardee volunteer? Find out how to get started:

Baylee Huff

Manager, Pardee Volunteer Services
UNC Health Pardee

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