A volunteer organization that helped raise funds at the Kootenay Lake Hospital in Nelson, B.C. for over 90 years has been forced to stop operating because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kootenay Lake Hospital Auxiliary has been in operation since 1931, with volunteers raising an average of $40,000 per year doing tasks like running the hospital gift shop and gardens, conducting bake sales and raffles, and servicing the hospital ATM and televisions.
Despite surviving the Great Depression and the Second World War, the auxiliary was unable to outlast the pandemic after part of Kootenay Lake Hospital was converted to a COVID testing clinic, immediately shutting down the gift shop.
It was also becoming much more difficult for volunteers, most of whom were seniors, to spend their time at the hospital, according to Marla Olson, president of the auxiliary.
"Some of them have been volunteering for over 40 years, so it's very difficult to get volunteers anymore," she told Chris Walker, host of CBC's Daybreak South.
"We're not happy. I just think, you know, even if we could open up, let's say tomorrow, I think it would be hard to staff our gift shop and to run all our programs."
Olson says the group has received emails of support from retired nurses and former patients at the hospital since it announced it was disbanding permanently.
She says her favourite memory of the auxiliary was seeing women in their 90s staff the gift shop.
The organization is still looking to sell some of its remaining stock, including baby quilts and sewing equipment.
All of its remaining funds will be donated directly to the Kootenay Lake Hospital Foundation.