Caring contributors to community: Auxiliary marks a 75-year tradition in Springfield

Volunteers who last have one of more things in common: A sense of caring, a need to contribute to their communities, and an affinity for forming close connections with others who do the same.

As the Auxiliary of Mercy Health’s Springfield Regional Medical Center celebrates its 75th year, two past presidents and the auxiliary’s current president are prime examples.

Giving back, really

Bob Stough, who is four years older than the organization itself, “got interested before I retired from Cessna (in Vandalia),” he said – largely because he could feel patients’ pain.

“I had gone through back surgeries, and when people came in for a procedure, they’re fearful. They don’t know what to expect, and I thought I could maybe calm their nerves a little bit.”

That was 21 years ago.

Over time, Stough said, “you gain (patients’) confidence and share their sorrow, too,” as he often did when his volunteering took him into the emergency room.

On a single shift, he met a woman who had returned to the hospital after complications from birth some months earlier. That same day, he was in the ER when her baby, who had been rolled over on in bed, arrived and passed on from his injuries.

In addition to the family’s suffering, Stough said, situations like that spread “just a horrible feeling through the ER, for the rest of the day and beyond.”

It’s one reason he also keeps a caring on an eye on the staff and these days has some regrets about not knowing the doctors as well as when he once did.

But he does recall the moment he alerted a doctor that a child’s oxygen level had quickly dropped, “and she was in the room right now.”

Although largely helpless, he also was glad to have been beside a 15-year-old girl through the pain she had to endure until her parents arrived to sign papers for her emergency gall bladder surgery.

After saying “those are the kinds of things that make you feel good,” Stough told the story of an episode that could appear, with minor editing, in a highlight reel for hospital volunteers.

Searching for a way to lessen the anxiety of a women who was not thrilled about the prospect of a colonoscopy, he found paper and pen, and wrote a note. Until the procedure began, Stough and the patient’s focus were re-directed to how the doctor might respond to “Exit Only” sign they’d posted on a certain rear entrance.

Oh, and there’s the wife, too

His age notwithstanding, former Auxiliary president Bill Hester could be the poster child for those who find the social connections they need through volunteering.

In 32 years in marketing and sales, “I liked the work,” he said, “but I loved the contact with the customers.”

As it turned out, most of those people continued working when Hester retired, among them his best customer-friend, Jack Jacobs, who had no plans to relocate to Springfield from Tulsa.

In six years spent as the auxiliary’s president elect, president and then past president, Hester made friendships that morphed into monthly dinner party gatherings.

“Even being off the board (due to a bylaws requirement), I kept track of what was going on.”

The connections were strong enjoy that when he rejoined and the pandemic came, the get-togethers moved to socially distanced form once the the church he attends allowed them to meet on the back patio.

In Hester’s time off the board, others had moved into his old volunteer station at the Springfield Regional gift shop. But since Hester finds people pretty much the same wherever he goes, “I’m very happy working with my wife and with old friends and new friends” at the gifts shop at Mercy in Urbana.”

But his volunteering did bring him in contact with someone who was a bit different from the rest.

Like him, she never thought she’d remarry after losing her spouse. She changed her mind about that the same time Hester did, as is indicated above.

No more, ‘Da, da, da’

Theresa Silvers was retired from Robbins & Myers and Morgan Stanley Dean Witter.

Her husband was retired from 40 some years at Bryce Hill.

“Da, da, da,” she said of the idle time they spent till the day she turned to him and said, “Richard, we’ve been doing this for three years.”

For volunteers, she said, “The primary thing is to recognize that you do have something to give.”

As the auxiliary’s current president, she’s been giving a lot of time and though to getting it restarted after the pandemic.

The Springfield hospital’s Gardenview gift shop, the auxiliary’s main source of income, was closed two months, then had reduced hours “and we’re really not even back entirely” now she said.

Because of this, the auxiliary for the first time missed one in the series of 15 $50,000 payments it pledged to the hospital when Springfield Regional was being built.

The gala and golf outing were canceled, as well as the “Lights of Love” fundraiser in which people make donations in names of loved ones remembered at the Christmas season.

Over the years, with money raised through sales of jewelry, hospital uniforms and shoes, bake sales and other events, the organization has helped to build the hospital’s orthopedic wellness center, bought a CT scanner for the Regional Cancer Center, supported chronic care clinics, the intensive care unit cardiac rehab program and this year will contribute to the outfitting of a neurology department.

Silvers said another goal is to show appreciation to the hospital staff with cookie deliveries and to volunteers (who do not have to belong to the auxiliary) and auxiliary members themselves.

“We also decided we want to improve relations with the staff, the (Community Mercy) Foundation and the community.”

Silvers no longer has time for “Da, da, da.”

Those who want to help care for others, connect with friends or show they still have something to give can contact the auxiliary by calling the Springfield Regional volunteer office at 937-523-5193 or emailing Silvers at