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Kelowna General Hospital Foundation receives $250,000 donation

Sean Pihl, chair of the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation board, and Heather Merrick, president of the Rutland Hospital Auxiliary.   - Barry Gerding/Capital News
Sean Pihl, chair of the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation board, and Heather Merrick, president of the Rutland Hospital Auxiliary.
— image credit: Barry Gerding/Capital News

The Rutland Hospital Auxiliary celebrated its 50th anniversary today in style by making a donation of $250,000 to the Kelowna General Hospital Foundation.

The money, raised from proceeds from the auxiliary's thrift shop at 140 Dougall Road in Rutland, will go towards outfitting the new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre at KGH.

Heather Merrick said the donation is halfway towards the auxiliary's goal of raising $500,000 to help equip the heart and surgical centre.

"It's very thrilling for us to be able to make this donation," Merrick said.

"This auxiliary began in 1963 and to see it build and build over those years since to this level is a huge accomplishment for all the auxiliary volunteers and the community supporting us."

Merrick said the thrift shop was originally started in the old Corner Pin bowling alley on Rutland Road, which has since been torn down, and subsequently moved twice prior to being established at the Dougall location.

"We have outgrown where we are now as we have more items to sell than we have space to display them, and parking is always an issue for us," Merrick explained.

"We could easily go bigger if the right opportunity were to come along."

Sean Pihl, a Kelowna lawyer and chair of the KGH Foundation board, said the Rutland auxiliary's first donation to KGH was $177.68, which in today's dollars would amount to $870.

"To go from that to $250,000 represents an increase in productivity that even a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet could learn something from," Pihl said.

Pihl congratulate the auxiliary for raising $3.5 million during it 50-year history, a reflection of the sense of community that the City of Kelowna has always represented to him.

Pihl said he grew up in Kelowna, citing that Ben Lee, a former Kelowna city council member and long-time supporter of the Rutland Hospital Auxiliary, was his Grade 8 art teacher at Dr. Knox school.

"There has been a great sense of community here that has existed since I moved here back in 1972," Phil said. "And it is organizations like the Rutland Auxiliary that create that sense of community."

He said the heart and surgical centre will be able to provide operations for local residents who otherwise would face a trip to a Vancouver hospital for those procedures.

"It is important to be in your own home, near the people you love, in those situations. And it only becomes possible to meet that goal through the contributions that come from the volunteer effort of organizations like the Rutland Hospital Auxiliary."

Pihl said the province has provided the funding to build the new heart and surgical centre structure, leaving a big responsibility on the community to help raise the money to outfit it with the equipment needed, which will also benefit residents in other communities across the southern B.C. Interior region.

Ken Burrows, former chief operating officer for the Okanagan Health Service area who is now retired and serves as an Interior Health board member, and Dr. Rob Halpenny, chief executive officer of Interior Heath, both extended their acknowledgements of the volunteer efforts of the Rutland Auxiliary.

"The Rutland Auxiliary has put caring for other people first," said Burrows.

"I thank the auxiliary for what they are doing and I also want to note the scholarship contribution the auxiliary makes to a graduating student every year to enter the study of human medicine. It is taking investment in our community to another level," said Halpenny.

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