The oldest branch of the Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary, formerly St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary, is closing.
The Columbia Coast Mission’s St. Mary’s Hospital, now Sechelt Hospital, opened on Aug. 16, 1930 in Garden Bay, Pender Harbour, thanks to the efforts of the Rev. John Antle, the co-operation of the Pender Harbour residents, the Anglican Church and our governments. It cost $25,000 to build on land donated by R. Brynelsen and the building is still standing today.
In 1937, anxious to assist this much needed medical facility, a group of Pender Harbour residents, women and men, formed an auxiliary to the hospital. They raised money to provide extra comforts for the patients and to purchase equipment and provisions not already provided to the hospital. Funds came from dances, bridge parties, whist drives, raffles and annual fish derbies, which created much interest and excitement for residents and visitors, as did the fall bazaars.
Eventually the men left the auxiliary and the ladies continued to work enthusiastically and with dedication, raising more than $12,000 in the first 20 years. The members regularly visited the patients, bringing fruit, chocolate bars and reading materials, and each patient received a Christmas gift and the New Year’s baby a silver spoon. Travel in Pender Harbour in those days was not always easy, being for the most part accessible only by small boat. Other areas of the Coast sent money raised from their projects and, in 1941, the hospital was able to buy a major item – an X-ray machine.
St. Mary’s Hospital in Pender Harbour closed in 1964 and a new St. Mary’s hospital was opened in Sechelt on land donated by the Sechelt First Nation. The Pender Harbour auxiliary continued to support the new hospital, raising funds and volunteering their time in the thrift and gift shops and the Loan Cupboard along with members from the other five auxiliary branches.
Although their branch has closed, several Pender Harbour auxiliary members will be joining the Halfmoon Bay branch and will continue to assist our hospital. Much of the equipment at today’s Sechelt Hospital has been acquired through the efforts of the six healthcare auxiliary branches over many years and we thank most sincerely its first and oldest branch started in Pender Harbour over 80 years ago.
Ann Watson is the archivist at Sechelt Community Archives.