Ruth Smith will never forget watching as the Sisters transformed health care in Mountain View. That mission inspired Smith to give back, too. Today, more than 40 years later, she remains a proud member of the Mercy St. Francis Auxiliary.
“Since I was young, I’ve always wanted to volunteer for the greater good,” Smith said. “As a student in the early 1960s, I had to get permission directly from Sister Cornelia to spend my summer break at the hospital.”
Sister M. Cornelia Blasko, a native of Slovakia, remains close to the hearts of many in southwest Missouri. She and a handful of Sisters traveled to Mountain View in 1956 in response to a call for help. Together they reopened a hospital, known today as Mercy St. Francis Hospital, and expanded care to those in dire need. “We owe a debt of gratitude to the Sisters who came before us,” said Smith.
Smith’s own tenure as an auxilian began about a decade after the so-called “Gray Ladies” volunteered at the hospital in the 1960s. “They wore uniforms and caps and looked like registered nurses,” Smith recalled. “They would help with lab testing, x-rays, pediatrics, clerical work, dietary services and much more.”
Today, volunteers sport Mercy vests and name badges, and their duties have also changed considerably. The dozens of auxilians at Mercy St. Francis split their time between the gift shop – along with other tasks at the hospital – and the Mercy St. Francis Thrift Shop, located at 108 W. 1st Street. The store sells gently used items, such as clothing, seasonal décor and household items; purchases at either location benefit the hospital, patients and community.
“We have a lot of fundraisers throughout the year,” Smith said. “There are Christmas and Easter bazaars, as well as book sales and quilt raffles. Our latest project included a donation to the hospital’s cardiac rehab. Before that, we contributed to the sleep lab and the Sister M. Cornelia Blasko Foundation, which makes a tremendous impact on the community each year.”
While rewarding, giving the gift of time isn’t only about helping patients and the hospital. Auxilians like Ruth realize soon after starting that they’re helping themselves, too. “Most of us are retired, so this gives us an opportunity to step out and make a difference in the world,” said Smith, who has donated more than 4,000 hours of her time. “It’s an incredible feeling, absolutely. It has also allowed us all to become friends and build great relationships. And it’s very enjoyable!”
Volunteers 18 years or older are invited to join the Mercy St. Francis Auxiliary. To learn more, call the human resources department at 417-934-7079 or stop by the office at Mercy St. Francis Hospital, located at 100 W. US Highway 60.
The Mercy St. Francis Gift Shop is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. The Mercy St. Francis Thrift Shop’s hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.