The End of an Era


The End of an Era

As the 68-year-old Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Dissolves, We Look Back at their Incredible Legacy

It all began nearly a century ago, in 1931, when the Ladies Aid Society donated bassinets to Frankfort’s first hospital, Haldeman House Hospital at 107 Park Avenue. Twenty-one years later, the Auxiliary would officially assimilate to support what is now Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital.

Joanne Brown, who joined the Auxiliary in the 1970s, can still remember vividly when she came up with the idea for the hospital’s gift shop. The Auxiliary had been using a tiny closet as a space to sell homemade gifts. “I thought it would be neat if we could sponsor a gift shop,” Brown, now 91, shared.

Brown asked about space, and they soon received permission to use a portion of the waiting room. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I was an art and English teacher and didn’t know anything about merchandising.”

Determined to make the gift shop work, Brown rolled up her sleeves and dove in, driving as far as Chicago and Detroit to find gifts to line the shelves. “It turned out pretty good. We earned money for the hospital and we were proud.”

Serving eventually as the Head of Volunteers, Brown described her experience of finding willing helpers as nearly effortless. “Everyone I asked would do it. It was wonderful because everyone was so willing to help the hospital.”

As decades passed, others would continue to run that same and beloved gift shop – including Diane Miller, who served the Auxiliary during its last six years in many roles and capacities, including president.

Miller is saddened by its recent disbandment, an agreement made this past April though discussed for several years due to a changing and increasingly competitive fundraising landscape. “It was a tough decision,” Miller shared. “The Auxiliary was much more than just a financial club. These are all very caring women, and I have to say the most important thing for me was working with them. They’re smart, they’re organized, they’re caring.”

Among Miller’s many memories include running the annual golf benefit at Crystal Mountain Resort with the help of co-chair Mary Kay Stemple. Former president Kay Hommel suggested the idea in the mid-1990s, long before golfing fundraisers were mainstream.

“Kay was not even a golfer, but she thought it would be a good thing,” explained Irene Nugent, who also served as president-elect, then president, beginning in the mid-nineties. “Eventually, we had to turn away people because we had too many. It was very popular.”

Nugent relocated to Frankfort from Perrysburg, Ohio in the fall of 1992 with her husband, a Frankfort native, and was looking to form new friendships as well as continue her legacy of volunteering. She joined the Auxiliary after a sudden brush with high blood pressure, a fact she might not have uncovered had she not heard a radio ad promoting walk-in blood pressure checks at Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital.

“I was so thankful that the hospital was here, and I could take advantage of that service – which perhaps saved my life or saved me from a stroke or who knows what. No wonder I wanted to do what I could to sing its praises and help out.”

The annual golf benefit, which endured for an incredible 24 years, was just one of many successes. There was nothing, it seems, the group didn’t organize, from uniform, garage, and bake sales to well-attended charity balls, the Great Community Talk Festival, and the treasured Tour of Interesting Places.

“One year for the tour, we had a tall ship that came into town. It had been redone and was going around the Great Lakes,” Nugent recalled. “And we welcomed some interesting people for the Great Community Talk Festival, including Clint Van Zandt, an FBI profiler, and hostage negotiator who spoke in 2004.”

A few years later, the Auxiliary published Images of Benzie County, which soon had to be republished due to high sell-out.

But fundraising was just one side of the coin.

Across the span of 68 years, generation after generation of members vigorously served their 321-square-mile county, uniting Benzie residents multiple times a year for fun causes that, in turn, benefited their 39-bed hospital and beyond. Year after year, they endeavored, pouring their hearts and spare time into countless fundraising efforts that would go on to raise a stunning $1.5 million-plus, since they began tracking in 1980. The funds helped purchase critical medical equipment, support important wellness programs, partnerships, educational grants, and expansions and renovations.

“This hospital would not be what it is today without the support of this amazing group of volunteers,” expressed Peter Marinoff, former president and CEO of Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital. “The compassion and commitment they have shown Paul Oliver over the last 68 years is truly remarkable and we cannot thank them enough for being part of our story.”

To accomplish their community-wide goals and benefit as many people as possible, the Auxiliary also helped implement programs outside of the hospital, like Safe Sitters – which provided young teens with safe babysitting classes – and sponsoring an athletic trainer to promote concussion safety, part of a partnership between Munson Healthcare Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital and Frankfort-Elberta Schools.

“It’s amazing what happens when you work together as a group with the community as your purpose,” said Miller. “You can see the accomplishments. They’re visual. We’re very proud of that.”

The Paul Oliver Memorial Hospital Auxiliary has been instrumental to numerous projects and programs since their inception. Some of their most memorable involvement includes support for:

  • Paul Oliver Kitchen Facility
  • Munson Manor Hospitality House
  • Munson Hospice and Home Health
  • Long-term Care
  • Emergency Department
  • Digital Mammography
  • Mobile MRI
  • Cardiac Rehabilitation
  • Betsie Hosick Health and Fitness Center
  • Wellness Programs
  • Dialysis

Their generosity has supplied our communities with critical technology upgrades, life-saving equipment, and comforting healing spaces—no matter the medical emergency.

From 1980-2020 the Paul Oliver Auxiliary has raised over $1,500,000.

We are forever grateful for their commitment to quality healthcare, close to home.