For the past 23 years, families and friends have donated money to sponsor a light on the Tree of Love at McDuffie Regional Medical Center to pay tribute to a deceased loved one. The annual tree-lighting ceremony is also one of McDuffie County's deep rooted traditions.
"The hospital's auxiliary has again this year exceeded my expectations with the Tree of Love. Not only was the lighting ceremony absolutely beautiful, the funds contributed will directly benefit our patients through the purchase of needed equipment," said Douglas Keir, CEO of the hospital.
While the Tree of Love serves as a memorial, it is also a resource that enables the hospital auxiliary to purchase items for the hospital. So far, this year's donations total $4,845, according to Eva Newsome, director of volunteer services and patient relations at the hospital.
"We have done quite a few things with it. We try to do things that are needed, but are not in the budget for that fiscal year," Ms. Newsome said.
Ms. Newsome said recommendations from hospital personnel for needed items are sent to the hospital auxiliary executive board. The board goes over the recommendations; then the whole membership votes on how the money will be spent.
Last year, Ms. Newsome said the auxiliary purchased STAXI wheelchairs, infant scales for the intensive care unit, new chairs to replace damaged ones in the med. surg. unit, reclining chairs for the intensive care unit, and a chair for the radiology department for patients who cannot stand up for a mammogram.
The auxiliary accepts donations year-round to the Tree of Love, and Ms. Newsome said donations usually come in through the middle of January. During the year, people usually make contributions to the tree in lieu of flowers sent to a funeral. Last year's donations totaled "right at $5,000," so Ms. Newsome said this year was pretty close to that.
Ms. Newsome said she had seen on television that 2005 holiday donations were down 40 percent to Toys for Tots and the Salvation Army because people gave to donation drives for hurricane victims.
"We were pleased that ours were not down that much. We expected it to be down some ...but people have been very generous, and the auxiliary really appreciates that."