Communities come together in support of local hospitals

SVC mayor James Hayes, Liane Preinbergs, Linda Swales and Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr.

Close to 60 people attended this week’s bi-annual gathering of the Riverina Regional Hospital Auxiliaries, welcoming new Regional Representative Liane Preinbergs and celebrating the positives of hospital fundraising in 2019/2020.

The meeting was held at Club Tumut on Tuesday and included remarks from Wagga MP Dr Joe McGirr, MLHD CEO Jill Ludford and Snowy Valleys Mayor James Hayes.

Dr McGirr celebrated the importance of local support for local hospitals.

“The Riverina has one of the highest memberships [in Hospital Auxiliaries],” he said.

When Dr McGirr was asked why the numbers are so high, he replied simply, “We’ve got the best communities in the state.”

“I think the communities know how important their hospitals are and what a difference their funds make,” he added.

Two new Life Memberships were awarded at the meeting: Mary Brown of the Tumut Auxiliary and Dorothy Shepherd of the Young Auxiliary. Dr McGirr presented the awards to the two women for their outstanding commitment to fundraising.

Outgoing Regional Representative Linda Swales, who has held the role for nine years and still remains as State President, highlighted some of the most amazing statistics from the past year, describing how the Riverina’s 636 members (across 23 branches) raised a combined gross of $685,000 dollars and worked just over 29,000 volunteer hours.

“It has been a very difficult time for all however we are definitely resilient and reliable volunteers, friends and community members,” said Mrs Swales.

Mrs Swales, a Batlow resident, congratulated the branches and volunteers for their continued support of local hospitals, even in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic and the limits it put on fundraising.

“Thank you for approaching the unwelcome Covid-19 pandemic with a responsible attitude to your fellows members and your communities,” she told the gathering.

“This pandemic reminds us all to advocate for mental health, not just physical health, and that now is the time for us to be at our very best. 

“Coronavirus has had so many effects upon us in so many ways and we do sometimes need to remember that at times just getting through the day is an achievement in and for ourselves.”

Maureen Dowling, President of the Tumut branch, said the pandemic had changed some aspects of fundraising, but overall she said its impact was harsher on the younger generations.

“It’s going to take a long while for us to recover from [the bushfires and Covid], but I do feel for the younger ones more than for us older ones,” she said.

Mrs Dowling said the event was presented beautifully by members of the Tumut Auxiliary.

“We’ve had a really good rollup from all the regions in our area,” she said. 

“They come from as far as West Wyalong and Leeton; they’ve come from far and wide.

“I especially want to thank Liane, who’s the new region representative, for all the work she’s put into this, because she’s our [Tumut Branch] secretary and as you know, they do most of the work.”

Mrs Preinbergs laughed at the comment and agreed that the secretary tends to carry a heavy administrative load, but said she has been pleased to be able to fill the role.

“My husband and I just retired five years ago, and we were looking to fill a void of what we can do and what we can’t do,” she said. 

“I am administration-driven and just thought this would be a good way of putting back into the community, so my years of office work wasn’t wasted.”

Mrs Preinbergs will continue as the local secretary while she undertakes regional roles and attends statewide events. She said she’s proud of the fundraising figures the Auxiliaries reached during the pandemic.

“For our Riverina Region, I’m proud of the hours volunteered for such an elderly organisation,” she said.

“A lot of members are 60 and above and struggling health-wise, so for them to get up every day and go sit at a stall or bake cakes and give hours at a time – they’re the members that I’m most proud of, because they just keep giving. They don’t stop.”

The Auxiliaries are always open to new members, “any age, any gender,” said Mrs Preinbergs. 

“All they have to do is contact either the president or myself.”