Today, "volunteerism" seems to be a trendy catch word, something politically correct, participation to be encouraged and desired for all citizens. But long before all the recent attention, volunteers have been donating time and energy to worthwhile endeavors because they believe their contributions to be important to their communities.
One such volunteer group is the Women's Board of The Johns Hopkins Hospital, founded in 1927. The board's 70th birthday was celebrated last Monday.
The board's mission is as viable today as it was when it was written: "The purpose of the Board shall be to acquaint the public with the work of the hospital and its needs; to promote understanding and support to the hospital; and to maintain fund raising projects for the work of the hospital." The board's fund-raising efforts have produced $7 million for Hopkins in the years since its inception.
The Women's Board has been recognized among hospital volunteer groups for the ambitious reach of its programs as well as for its fund raising. Its leadership is exemplified in a series of successful ventures.
Some of these, such as the Carriage House Collection of Christmas items and the Best-Dressed Sale (of gently used clothing and accessories), have become Baltimore traditions. Others, such as the Carry-on Shop, Gift Shops and Coffee Bar, have, through careful stewardship, grown into highly profitable enterprises.
Each project is administered separately by a committee that becomes responsible for all aspects of organizing and carrying out the work required. The Carry-on Shop, located at 1830 E. Monument St. across from the hospital, is Baltimore's oldest thrift shop. Its profits are from the sale of goods donated by people throughout the city. The Gift Shop, opened in 1953, is located off the main lobby of the hospital. From a modest beginning, the shop achieved resounding financial success and has given birth to a smaller version of itself located in the Outpatient Center. The Coffee Bar has proven to be a convenient and popular spot for hospital outpatients and staff.
The board's Christmas sale was first held in 1957. It was an instant success and has since metamorphosed into the annual Carriage House Collection, attracting vendors and patrons from near and far. The immensely popular and profitable Best-Dressed Sale begun in 1964, is also held at the Evergreen Carriage each autumn although board members begin organizing the project 10 months in advance. Customers line up hours before the doors open to have first pick of the rich selection.
Who are these women who bring so much energy and creativity to their volunteer work? About a third of the members are related to someone connected with the hospital - wives of physicians or trustees. The other two-thirds have no attachment to the hospital other than through their volunteer work. Many have been long-term board members, some participating for 30 years or more.
Decisions about how to spend the money are made following a careful format from September to March. A representative of the board meets with each hospital chairperson, gathering information on new research developments, advances and needs for special funding.
These requests are channeled through the board's Hospital Relations Committee, which ultimately advises the full board, regarding allocation of the money. The committee works closely with the administration as the year proceeds, noting other possible funding sources and often focusing on special large requests.
Among a lengthy list of projects have been establishment of the Child Life Program, Hopkins' first intensive care unit; the Child Advocacy Program; the Diabetes Center; home health care for the elderly; the Breast Cancer Screening Center in the Outpatient Center and a $1 million contribution for the establishment of the new Oncology Center.
The board also gives scholarship support to the medical and nursing schools and helps to fund the work of other volunteer groups.
By setting tough goals for itself, the Women's Board has demonstrated over its 70-year history that volunteerism is indeed a viable, worthwhile means of making a contribution to institutions and individuals.
Joan Schill is a member of the Women's Board of the Johns Hopkins Hospital
Pub Date: 9/21/97