Proudly celebrating our community service on the Sunshine Coast

Our History

The History of Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary

In the early 1900’s the Columbia Coast Mission boats serviced the communities and logging camps along the isolated areas of the Sunshine Coast. They supplied everything from groceries to religious services. In 1930 they recognized the need for a hospital for these communities and so with donated land in Garden Bay and the help of local residents, a hospital became a reality. The name St. Mary’s was chosen in appreciation of the help received from members of St. Mary’s Church parish in Vancouver, who helped design and build a miniature hydroelectric plant for the new hospital. The residents of Pender Harbour got together and began fund raising to support the hospital. The site was only accessible by water until a road was built in the late 1930’s connecting

Pender Harbour to the rest of the Sunshine Coast. It was quite a long time until that road was paved and it was a difficult, bumpy, dusty drive for residents of the lower coast.

By 1941 the fund raising group, along with help from the rest of the coast, managed to purchase an X-ray machine. In 1937 the Pender Harbour Branch of St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary was formally established. As the population grew, mostly on the lower end of the coast, it became apparent that a larger, more centrally located hospital was required. In 1959 the Sechelt Indian Band donated eleven acres of their land on the north side of the highway in Sechelt to the Regional Hospital District and plans were made for a new hospital. In1960 an auxiliary was formed to assist in a plebiscite for permission to relocate St. Mary’s. With the success of the plebiscite this auxiliary became the Gibsons Branch. In 1961 an auxiliary was formed in Sechelt.

The new hospital was opened in 1964 and the Garden Bay site was closed. The hospital was run by a society with an administrator.

The medical staff included Dr. Swan, Dr. Paetkau, Dr. Burtnick, Dr. Hobson and Dr. Inglis. At this time Roberts Creek residents formed an auxiliary. Some of their

fundraising events included coffee parties and concerts, but their main fundraiser was catering. The same year, 1964, Port Mellon established an auxiliary, which was later, disbanded when the town site was closed. Members of the Port Mellon Branch who moved to the Hopkins area formed a new branch in 1981.

In 1965 a coordinating council was formed to bring together all six groups, with the Hospital Administrator and Head Matron as advisors, the objective being to coordinate fund raising activities.

In 1984 St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary (Sunshine Coast) became a registered society. The executive replaced the coordinating council and the board was made up of members from each branch and the standing committees – Thrift Store, Gift Shop, and Loan Cupboard.

Pender Harbour Auxiliary was formed in 1937, Halfmoon Bay in 1955, Gibsons in 1960, Sechelt in 1961, Roberts Creek in 1964 and Hopkins Landing in 1981.

In 1984 the 6 auxiliaries became one and formed a Society to become St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary Society. The 6 branches still exist but have formed one auxiliary under the Societies Act. In 2015 the name changed due to a name change of St. Mary’s Hospital to Sechelt Hospital. At that time there was a strong desire to better reflect all of the branches and the membership voted for the Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary Society.

Bert Whitaker who turned it over to Mary Ann Porte in lieu of wages originally owned the Thrift Store property. It was Mary Ann who caused the cottages to be built. She and her husband George Phillips willed the property to the hospital foundation. In 1967 the auxiliary decided to open a Thrift Store in the cottage on the property and obtained permission. Members say that it was only open on Saturdays and the members spent the week gathering items to sell each week. In 1981 the hospital foundation built a new building on the site and it has grown steadily since then to the treasure it as it is today.

A similar humble beginning started the Gift Shop with one lady buying items for the patients of the hospital. In 1973 a proper shop was set up in space provided by the hospital and a standing committee was formed to run it. Today the shop’s best customers are the hospital staff

Soon after the hospital opened the Director of Nursing, Wendy Hunt, recognized a growing need in the community for equipment for patients leaving the hospital to use at home on a short term loan. Together with another nurse, Marie Montgomery, who was a member of the auxiliary they started the Loan Cupboard. They soon turned this service over to the capable hands of Betty Laidlaw who continued to guide this very successful service for many years until she retired.

Today we have a new name, Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary Society and we continue to be a significant contributor to the quality of health care on the Sunshine Coast. As active members of the BC Association of Health Care Auxiliaries we are consistently among the most significant exceeded only by a few in the large city centres.

There is much to be proud of as we acknowledge our valuable history and continue to celebrate our ongoing success.

Pender Harbour Auxiliary was formed in 1937, Halfmoon Bay in 1955, Gibsons in 1960, Sechelt in 1961, Roberts Creek in 1964 and Hopkins Landing in 1981.

In 1984 the 6 auxiliaries became one and formed a Society to become St. Mary’s Hospital Auxiliary Society. The 6 branches still exist but have formed one auxiliary under the Societies Act. In 2015 the name changed due to a name change of St. Mary’s Hospital to Sechelt Hospital. At that time there was a strong desire to better reflect all of the branches and the membership voted for the Sunshine Coast Healthcare Auxiliary Society.