Lights of Love Nov. 29 at SMRC

Last holiday season, Bill Hester renewed his sense of connection with departed friends by dedicating snowflake ornaments to them through the Lights of Love program at Springfield Regional Medical Center.

In doing so, Hester contributed $15 toward the record $7,000 the annual event raised for the auxiliary, an organization he hopes can help Springfielders feel a closer sense of connection with the year-old hospital.

The doors of the hospital’s Garden Level conference room will open at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 29 for this year’s Lights of Love ceremony. Trees will be lighted at 5 p.m.

Steve Ryman will sing, and the Rev. Beverly DeBord of Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church will deliver the message.

Those interested in buying snowflakes for loved ones present and past can pick up brochures at the hospital’s information desk, gift shop or volunteer office or call the volunteer office at (937) 523-5193.

Connecting people with the hospital “is what the auxiliary is about,” said Hester, who in January will begin a two-year term as the organization’s president. “It’s supposed to be the community working together to make it the best hospital possible.”

Hester, 73, started volunteering at the Springfield Regional Cancer Center in January 2006, two months after losing his wife, Bobbi, to cancer.

“If there’s angels, they have to be cancer nurses and hospital nurses,” he said.

The retired businessman went on to volunteer at the two former campuses of the hospital before attending the cornerstone ceremony for the current facility and helping to move patients in.

The auxiliary raises most of its money through the hospital gift shop and has given the hospital substantial support: It provided its half million share of a $1 million challenge grant to the community, then pledged an additional $250,000 to benefit the hospital’s cardiac unit.

In doing so, “we became the largest community of donors to the hospital,” Hester said, “and we’re very proud of that.”

Another of its roles, he said, is providing feedback to the hospital administration.

“We’re pretty vocal on what we see and don’t like,” he said, “and (SMRC President and CEO) Mark Weiner has taken note of that.

“I had my own daughter there that had some troubles and met with them,” Hester said.

Building on what he called “an amazing job” outgoing President Bob Stout has done in “revitalizing the auxiliary,” Hester said he’d like to see membership grow and its role expand in a way that invites the community in.

“We want people that aren’t volunteers to come in to see what the auxiliary does and how the hospital operates,” he said.

The auxiliary is now reaching out to nurses both to involve them in the auxiliary and find out how the auxiliary can help them.

“Hopefully we can help meet some of the needs of the nurses on the floor, (and do) whatever makes their jobs easier,” he said.

Hester said that as he “found the enjoyment of giving and knowing the people there,” his work with the auxiliary “became a passion.”

“The auxiliary,” he said, “is just an extension of the community.”